Home Made Bee Hive Stand

Ok, what’s been going on at the ranch lately?  Well actually a fair amount, though I did try to enjoy the weekend a little bit.  Our coat rack finally showed up from Pottery Barn; it was on back order and its delivery date was all over the place every time I called them.  It was easy to mount, I used the hardware included (3 screws and 3 metal drywall anchors).  One note, we have a big ass air vent between the studs where the center screw needed to go.  I could feel it when I was drilling my pilot hole and I seem to remember it from when we were building.  I used a small drill bit to pierce its thin foamy shell (I don’t think it was a sheet metal duct), then a larger bit to accommodate the wall anchor.  I then squeezed some caulk into the wall before drilling the wall anchor into place, presumably to close up the hole I just created in the duck.  Another note, I had taken photos and videos of this area when we built, but I didn’t look to see exactly was going on behind the drywall…I’ll go back and examine the video and photos later to make sure my assumptions are correct.  It’s a phenomenal idea to take photos and video before the drywall is hung on your new or remodeled home. If you learn nothing else from my awesome blog, learn that.  Here are the coat rack install pics:

Since we don’t have a front hall closet we had to go with this coat rack and shelf approach.  One thing I like about it is it sends a signal to guests that the house isn’t necessarily that formal.   It says that a family lives here and the house is loved and used, not some museum piece…we have coats and boots and all the ugly life stuff.  We try to keep it organized but it’s a home at the end of the day.  Or at least this is what I tell myself.

We bought another bee hive yesterday for a total of two.  Today was such a beautiful day the boys went out and rode their bikes and we put up the swings to play on.  I decided to build two hive stands for our bee hives.  Using scrap treated lumber and screws I had lying around, leftover from construction of the house, I built the stands in about two hours time.  I designed them as I built them.  I might change a couple of things, including tucking the legs under the frame, but all in all I think they will work out just fine.  These are more complicated than some of the more simple frames one could have built.  The bee expert we talked to suggested just taking four 2×12 and arrange them in a pin wheel.  I didn’t have any lumber that size lying around so I did my own thing and it didn’t cost me a dime.  Another option would have been cinder blocks but I’d have had to buy those, and the same expert I talked to wasn’t a big fan of putting bees on blocks.  Here is the gallery walk through of my home-made hive stand construction:

Finally a couple of items on my wish list are below.  One thing I finally did get though was a warm spring like day which I had been wanting for a long time.  It was so nice to bee……ugh….be outside today.  I can’t wait for more and more days like this.  We even have little buds on our bushes and the bulbs are coming up in the front yard I heard the wife say today.

I really want  a greenhouse.  Lowes has these inexpensive ones...it's an option...I could add this to a shed.

I really want a greenhouse. Lowes has these inexpensive ones…it’s an option…I could add this to a shed.

saw this at Lowes too.  Really want this book - it looked like it had some good info for growing our apples.

saw this at Lowes too. Really want this book – it looked like it had some good info for growing our apples.

Cool book I saw at Barnes & Noble.  I might think of asking for this for my birthday.

Cool book I saw at Barnes
& Noble. I might think of asking for this for my birthday.

Bees Are Ordered

Our bees are ordered.  We ordered one package and we are on the wait list for a “nuc” (a swam of bees already established on frames).  It will be a few weeks until they arrive but we’ve got plenty to do in the meantime.  We’ll pick up a second hive and some additional supplies.  I have to go out back and clear the hive area but will wait for a warmer weekend to do that.  Moving the bees into their new home should be pretty cool, a spectator worthy event. I’m really looking forward to bringing our girls home (basically all the bees are female, in case you were wondering).

House wise I’ve been spending some of my working day in the loft and have found it to be a most agreeable spot to think, read and create.  My office area is nice downstairs but it can’t compare to looking out the giant window as snowflakes meander their way earthbound.  I went “shopping” in our cluttered basement and found a little table upon which my coffee and note pad can rest in the loft next to my chair.  The boys were up there yesterday with me and they enjoy jumping off the deep window sills and rolling around on the carpet.  Surprisingly the loft doesn’t get as warm as one would expect but it’s still warmer than my transitional office area. 

I’ve been working in my studio as well, on a large 6′ stripe painting.  Looking forward to getting that framed and out of the way.  I have about a dozen blank canvases I need to work on for our summer art show schedule too.  

Outside the house has weathered winter fairly well.  The gutters have some grey streaks from roof runoff but I think I can clean those in the spring off of a tall ladder.  I also have a downspout to fix and a drooping valance panel that should be an easy fix.

We’ll spend some time planning the garden in the coming weeks.  One thing I’d love to do is build a small shed and greenhouse but I don’t think that will be in the cards this year.  The shed would be good for processing honey, but I can clear out some studio space to do that this year.  At the very least I may design the shed, for my portfolio if nothing else.

Working from home has been interesting and taken some adjustment but it’s going well.  I have another interview today so we’ll see how that goes.  The bees and other homesteading projects really keep me upbeat and excited.  Regardless though I really can’t wait for spring to arrive.  We’ve been holed up for too long. 

Nerd Day – Let’s Talk Subscriptions

Today is day two of my new gig as a design consultant / job seeker.  Mind you I have not consulted on anything yet.  I’m working on getting things organized and working on some promotional items this week. I applied to another position today so we’ll see how that goes.

I really like the new iMac computer, but there are aspects of the experience that are maddening.  I’ve been battling setting up my email for almost a day now.  Thankfully all my non-email files are migrated over to the new machine, but getting the various email accounts to fire on all cylinders has been a challenge.  If you’re into this sort of thing, here’s kind of where I’m at.  The stock Mail software that came with the iMac works okay, but it oscillates functioning between my home and our fine are business email accounts….sometimes one works, none work or they all do.  So I thought the answer would be to abandon Mail and go with Microsoft Outlook.  At work I used Outlook on my Mac and it was fine, so why not here.  I downloaded the Microsoft Office Suite to my Mac and tried to set up my three email accounts on it.  Well I never successfully got the fine art accounts to work…I could send but not receive (or vice versa, I forget).  At this point I’m back to using Mail, since 2 of the 3 accounts work (for now) on there.  I’ve got a friend who can look at the situation for me and maybe resolve it.

One major trend I’m seeing right now (or maybe I’m late…”major” means my backwoods self finally noticed ) is subscription based software licensing.  In the old days you bought the software and loaded it with a disk onto your computer.  Now you can save a few bucks by essentially “renting” the software.  This is perfect for me because I don’t know what my future holds, but for me to work my magic from home I need some pretty heavy-duty software that costs a lot. The aforementioned Microsoft Office software is available a few ways.  Normally it runs about $170 for a suite of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint   For $70 more you can add Outlook (email).  At that price you get to download the software onto one computer.  The other option is to rent the Office software for $10 a month and get all those programs, and some more for up to 5 computers.  At first blush this sounded good to me so I signed up for a 1 month free trial today.  But now I can’t get Outlook to process the art business email mailboxes so….   Now I’m thinking maybe scuttle the MS Office rental and just buy the base software for $170.  Word, Excel and PowerPoint are the only three programs I need, especially if Outlook won’t process my art business emails properly (by the way the reason may be operator error…I am no computer expert, by any stretch of the imagination).   And I don’t need the suite on 5 computers.  While we actually have six computers, I don’t want to mess with the ones that are working now by switching out the Office suite.  I love the new versions of the software, but I’ll really only use it on the iMac.  If I purchase the software, I’m not too concerned about updating it anytime soon.  For $170 there isn’t much risk here, I’ll likely buy.

From a design perspective I use Adobe creative products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and In-Design as well as Acrobat Pro.  Adobe offers a rental program as well.  If I buy it costs $1,200 for the aforementioned products only.  To rent it’s just $60 a month, with a one year contract.  Plus the subscription gets me ALL of Adobe’s creative products and instant updates to the software. As an aside, that’s the nice thing about subscriptions is that the subscriber always has the latest version of the software.  I can use the product on multiple computers but only one user at a time.  In this case I’m going to sign up for the subscription.  It will be easier for me to pony up $60 a month (I spend more on beer and pistachios currently) than it will be to jack up my credit card another $1,200.  With access to all of the web design tools also, who knows maybe I’ll pick some of them up and teach myself some web design tidbits.  It couldn’t hurt.

Unintentionally this leads me to my soap box.  I really like the idea of this subscription based software business model.  I read a good article today that said from their perspective the software companies like it because it flattens out their earnings reports.  No more spikes in sales when new product is updated and released.  Anyone can join at any time, no more waiting for the next release.  No more troughs in revenue between releases.  They also save on making discs and packaging; actually I think they do that regardless because most software is just downloaded these days with higher speed internet connections everywhere.  It also broadens the number of customers the product appeals to because the cost of entry is so much less, at least the short-term cost.  Take me for example, sure I can buy an Adobe suite at $1,200 but boy it’s a hell of a lot easier paying just $60 a month.  I also gain access to all kinds of other Adobe products.  Next thing you know I’m hooked, and my growing business is hooked and we’re buying up, or renting software, in between picking out drapes for the new office.  A little far-fetched but you get the idea.  It’s innovative thinking and an example of a company challenging traditional business models to stay viable in the marketplace.

Beyond that what if more companies migrated to a subscription model.  Car companies already do it with their leasing options.  Why not other durable consumer goods.  I believe this was a hallmark of Cradle to Cradle thinking (one of the best books of all time by the way).  Design products to live eternally so consumers can have their cake and eat it too.

I love buying stuff.  I love selling stuff.  I love just walking through a good old brick and mortar store or perusing online shops.  But then there’s the guilt of all this crap in our house when in reality there are just a handful of durable goods we need.  The marketplace would be better off if consumers demanded new business models and embraced subscription based goods.

A good example is any computer.  They’re obsolete in as little as 3 years, so they should design them for disassembly and upgrading.  Personally I don’t need to own a computer other than making sure my information is secure.  If I could trade out a part, or components then the case can last me for a decade for all I care.  Same goes for my television.  Wouldn’t it be cool if Sony sent me a new television every other year and I sent the old one back in the box the new one came in?  Then Sony could harvest all the bits and reuse them, re-mold them, do whatever the hell they want with them.  And they could control their supply chain more effectively….no longer having to dig up mountains or drilling wells for raw materials.  They’d have a steady predictable stream of material from me…you…your neighbor, friends…everyone.

This type of thinking isn’t new by any means but I think its time has come.  And it’s not meant for everything.  I like my Jeep, I need to own my Jeep.  Our bee hive, yeah we need to own that (I’ll rent it out to you though).  Washer and dryer though…we could work something out, especially as efficiency improves.

I didn’t really plan on talking about this tonight but did anyway.  Think about it and remember as a consumer you have more power than anyone to decide what kind of world we live in and our children grow up in.  Being a consumer is not a sin or bad thing, but there are smarter ways we can buy, and brands can be brought to change their business models if the market insists.  Insist with you penny or dollar that goods and services are designed, built, distributed and disposed up in a responsible nurturing manner.

I’ll leave you with today’s pics.

My home office feel cold so this is my favorite window sill to warm myself up on around lunch time or break time.  The south facing passive solar windows allow a ton of heat in during the winter.

My home office feels cold so this is my favorite window sill to warm myself up on around lunch time or break time. The south facing passive solar windows allow a ton of heat in during the winter.

View from my window sill while I wait for the cafeteria worker (my wife) to finish my lunch at my new job.

View from my window sill while I wait for the cafeteria worker (my wife) to finish my lunch at my new job.

The noon sun comes in about six feet (2 meters) into the kitchen.  The Silestone soaks up the heat where it's hit by sunlight.  The light wood floor relects the light upward eliminating the need for lights during much of the day.

The noon sun comes in about six feet (2 meters) into the kitchen. The Silestone soaks up the heat where it’s hit by sunlight. The light wood floor reflects the light upward eliminating the need for lights during much of the day.

Bee Day

Today was sort of bee day.  It was cold and snowy so I nixed the idea of going into the yard and clearing a space for the bee hive.  We did take the time to run out and buy our hive components though.  We bought a starter kit at Queen Right Colonies, Ltd. in Spencer, Ohio.  The kit included:

“(1) 9 5/8  dove tailed box, Telescoping cover, Inner Cover, Screen bottom board, (10) 9 1/8  frames, (10) sheets of waxed Rite Cell foundation. Helmet and veil, hive tool, feeder, hobbyist smoker, gloves.”

We  got one extra 9 5/8″ box to act as our upper, basically an area for bees to store honey.  As the year progresses we will add a medium box or two as the colony makes more honey. This year we decided to go with just one hive. For everything our cost was about $200 so far.

picture of our bee hive parts and tools

picture of our bee hive parts and tools

As for bees I think we’ve got our order in for a “nuc” (presumably short for “nucleus” ).  You can get bees three ways: 1) Swarm (“free”) – basically go out in the wild and lure an existing colony of bees back to your place.  This sounds like a lot of work.  2) Package ($60-$80) – you can order a 3 lb. pack of bees, and settle them into their warm new little home, from there they will build their colony on the frames inside the big wooden boxes. And finally 3) Nuc ($85 – $100) – you order a colony of bees already living on several frames.  Take a deep box, and drop in the pre-colonized frames into the box and drive home.  We chose the nuc route because this will get us off to a quick and easy start.  I’m sure any route will work just fine; probably just personal preference.

The bees will be ready some time in April or May, so I have some time to prep our hive area. I’ll wait ’til mother nature bestows some nice weather on us.  I need to get out back and clear a circle of meadow….maybe level the ground and dig a few ditches to route water around the area.  I’ll drop some gravel down and stack simple cinder blocks up to create a stand.  Getting the bee hive up off the ground will assure that raccoons and skunks won’t bother our bees.  Those inquisitive mammals don’t like to reach up and expose their stomachs because then the bees would sting them.  Having the hive higher up will make it easier to access the frames inside too.

In the spring we’ll spread wildflower seeds and plant lavender around the hive area and other areas on the property so our bees will be happy and have plenty of places to get nectar.

That’s about it for bee day today.  Keep checking back to follow along with our bee keeping adventure.  Also check the “Resources” page, I added a couple more links for house numbers and Queen Right bee keeping supply.