21,000 New Friends

Our three hives. As moving a photo I've taken since we first wandered the land quite a while ago.

Our three hives. As moving a photo I’ve taken since we first wandered the land quite a while ago.

Today we got our bees.

We set the alarm for seven o’clock and were on the freeway by eight. The morning was cold and rainy. Pooling and streaming water in the yard had me worried. As did my freakishly busy week. It was only Tuesday morning and already my head spun. Getting up and out into the real world of commuters wasn’t helping anything. I’ve grown accustomed to finite band of existence that does not involve having to deal with the real world on a daily basis, let alone rush hour traffic.

By time we made it to the Lorain county line though, the rain had stopped. I parked the truck. The wife and I walked over to the bee shop, and the air inside the garage was filled with a fair number of bees. Though it was nothing like last year’s delivery day. A warm sunny day. On that day the air, everywhere, was saturated with beating wings of bees. Last year was a freak show of fear – a line of newbies, waiting nervously to pick up their new bees. I can remember carrying our single package of bees, cover with bees inside and out, to the car and being as nervous as I think I ever had been before.

Today though we stepped inside with no fanfare; picking up a few provisions. The store wasn’t crowded at all. After paying, we stepped outside to the garage, handed our receipt and received our two, three-pound packages of bees. This year they slapped some fondant on the outside of one of the boxed packages. The recommendation being that the fondant will last longer than stuffing a marshmallow in the queen’s cell, giving the hive more time to acclimate to her. See, the queen’s cell has a cork in the opening. We remove the cork and plug the opening with fondant, or marshmallow in the past, so she can eat her way out.

As I walked out, holding two pine and mesh boxes, I read a hand written sign telling us to “check our package for a queen and healthy bees. 10,500 lives are depending on you”. No pressure.

Me decidedly less freaked out this year despite holding twice the number of bees.

Me, decidedly less freaked out this year despite holding twice the number of bees. (okay yes I’m a bit uncomfortable, holding the bees away from my body, grimacing as I wait for a bee to sting me.)

Once home we put the bees in the garage. We can’t dump them in the hive until late afternoon, when it was likelier going to be warmer, and the bees would be inclined to stay in the hive for the night.

Checking in on our bees. They acclimate in the garage for several hours, waiting for late afternoon to be dumped into their new hives.

Checking in on our bees. They acclimate in the garage for several hours, waiting for late afternoon to be dumped into their new hives.

Two 3# packages of bees. Wood, mesh, a tin can with sugar water and 21,000 humming wonders of nature waiting to get out.

Two 3# packages of bees. Wood, mesh, a tin can with sugar water and 21,000 humming wonders of nature waiting to get out.

As soon as the bees were home, I had to bolt to goto a work networking lunch. The speaker was no other than internet sensation Chief Oliver from the Brimfield PD. He seems like an awesome guy and his story was inspiring. Pretty cool for a Tuesday.

I made it home in time to work the afternoon away doing my design work. By four o’clock though the time had come to drop the bees in the new hives. We took hives No. 2 and No. 3 out back, as well as our bees. Our oldest helped, decked out in his bee outfit. I spent most of the time taking photographs and video in lieu of helping much.

It was very touching, making memories.

As for the bee install, here’s what you basically do… Set up the bottom board and a “deep” hive box. Take out five of the ten frames. Pick up one of the package boxes, slam it down on the ground, or box or wheelbarrow, so all the bees fall to the bottom. Then pull out the tin can in the package, releasing the bees. The air instantly fills with bees, which is rather unsettling, even though you have a suit on. Then fish out the queen’s cage and set it aside. Take the package and dump it upside down into the hive, where you took out the five frames.

Shake, shake, shake.

Freak out ’cause you have 10,499 pissed off bees everywhere.

Lean the package against the hive stand. Likely there are still a thousand bees inside the package box. They’ll get out on their own accord. If you want, place a stick in there so the lazy ones can crawl out, up and into the hive. After they chill out, you can replace the five frames.

Take the queen cage and a gob of fondant. Deftly remove the cork keeping her in the cage, with a pointy tool like a jewelers screw driver. Make sure she doesn’t get out. Our queens didn’t have attendants in with them this year, so no need to worry about bees besides her. Then squish fondant, plugging the opening. Hang her cage in the middle. “They” say point the plugged opening up and the screen of her cage towards the center. Well the metal hanger on our cages meant I could only really hang her cage with the plug down. The space between frames meant her cage could only face the side instead of the center of the hive.

She’ll be fine. I promise.

Next put some pollen substitute on top of the frames so the bees can eat, since the hive is empty. On top of that place the inner cover, using a brush to sweep your exploring bees off the top of the hive so they don’t get squished. On top of that goes the outer cover.

Christine came back out later today and installed a medium box with a top hive feeder filled with sugar water, on each of the two new hives.

The install of the bees went smoothly for the most part. Initially the wife encountered brain lapse after brain lapse so I had to tell her to quit it, take a deep breath and get her shit together: this was her show. The second hive was a piece of cake, and our guy got to help out pretty much with every step of the process.

Like I said, it was nice to see him and his mom sharing this experience. A new beekeeper, but already she is passing along an important life lesson to the next generation. Of all the experiences I can think of a kid having, I’m not sure I can think of one more important than what his mom gifted him today, and all the days here on out when it comes to raising these bees.

So now we have three hives. All in a row. It’s magical just seeing them there. At one time just an idea, but now reality.

Three hives will do wonders for our flowers and veggies. And our neighbors plants as well for miles around. They won’t even know why their gardens look so goo this year.

But it’s more than flowers. Or food. Or helping bees. Or helping the world we live in.

It’s mostly about experiences and memories I suspect.

Plus, who wouldn’t want 21,000 new friends.

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Spanish Pipedream

As you know I like John Prine. I’m draggin’ the wife to go see him in May for our wedding anniversary, when he comes to town. Well while listening to music as I worked tonight I finally listed to the lyrics of ‘Spanish Pipedream’. It made me smile, ’cause it sort of reminds me of this little endeavor of ours; especially in light of our new peach tree acquisition this week. It’s a fun little song, about a guy and a stripper. While I didn’t marry a stripper, the chorus kind of sums things up around here:

 

Blow up your T.V. throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own”

 

-John Prine ‘Spanish Pipedream’

 

Now that we have the trees I’m suddenly keying in on every peach song I hear on Pandora or wherever. And they seem to be country oriented and relatively happy.

Maybe my brass ring was a peach tree all along.

Pregnant Doe

While taking a break this morning to watch the deer eat the clover in our yard, I noticed the one doe has a distinct bulge in her midsection that the other deer don’t have.

She must be pregnant.

So with a little luck we’ll have a one or two new fawns dancing in the yard before Summer comes.

Our pregnant doe in the foreground.

Our pregnant doe in the foreground.

I'm no scientist, so I don't know for sure but the other two deer very well could be her fawns from last year.

I’m no scientist, so I don’t know for sure but the other two deer very well could be her fawns from last year.

Having clover in the yard means the deer do some of the mowing chores for me.

Having clover in the yard means the deer do some of the mowing chores for me.

Peach Blossom

With great anticipation I kept checking the peach blossoms today. The weather is sunny and not too cold, in the 50’s and 60’s. The wind is calm. So I was hoping the honey bees would find the peach orchard, and they did.

It was exhilarating to watch one of Christine’s bees go from flower to flower pollinating them. While this by no means guarantees we’ll have peaches in August, this at least assures that we’re on the right track; peaches should start growing once the flowers drop.

It really was incredible.

To watch the process first hand. How magnificent the nature works. We take so much for granted, in this age of factory farming and buying all our food at a grocery store. To connect with the natural process – a process that is simple, yet fraught with opportunities for failure – there was something fundamental and spiritual about the whole ordeal. I felt special witnessing it first hand. In a fast paced world where we never find the time to “smell the roses” let alone watch our food being made.

It’s a really special experience and I’m fortunate to be able to witness it right in our back yard.

A honey bee pollinating a peach blossom in our orchard today.

A honey bee pollinating a peach blossom in our orchard today.

Daisy getting into trouble again.

Daisy getting into trouble again.

 

Peaches

Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach tree blossoms.

Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach tree blossoms.

I’m pretty sure we have an addiction that may be borderline unhealthy. Well I know I have several of those, but what I’m specifically speaking about is our addiction to plants, namely trees. Okay, I swear we’re done….for now. It’s just that a certain little blond kid wanted a peach tree when we were at Lowe’s getting the Red Oak tree for Earth Day. Well we rushed out without getting one. Friday was Arbor Day, so what a perfect time to go plant some more trees. Except the weather was crappy. Today we ran out after my Saturday work meetings; took the trailer up to Lowe’s and selected three peach trees.

Now we have an unplanned peach orchard in our back yard.

In theory we’ve got a lot going on self-sustaining-wise. Bees = honey and wax, apples, black berries, raspberries, blue berries, choke berries, various herbs and vegetables, and now peaches.

In reality we haven’t had anything “grow” enough to harvest anything of note. Other than the cucumbers and zucchini last year; and maybe a few herbs.

 

The new peach orchard. Three trees if you're counting; next to the raspberry bushes and garden.

The new peach orchard. Three trees if you’re counting; next to the raspberry bushes and garden.

 

I planted two varieties of peaches: Red Haven and Belle of Georgia. Here’s some Georgia peach history (click here). Both are semi-dwarf varieties which means they should be about 10′-20′ in each direction. Home growers should stick to dwarf or semi-dwarf trees because they are easier to manage and produce fruit earlier in the lifespan of the tree. Peach trees hate wind. Don’t we all? We determined that there’s an alcove between the playground and veggie garden that gets lots of sun and the wind isn’t as strong as everywhere else. The land slopes in the area too, so cold air should pool elsewhere. See, cold frosty air runs over land much like water does, pooling in the low-lying areas. Keep your orchard trees out of the low-lying areas, in the sun and out of the wind and you should be fine.

I spaced our peach trees about 10′-11′ apart in a triangle. According to the cards that came with the trees, they are hardy to -10 to -20 degrees which should be fine. Unlike our apples, the peach trees are self-pollinating, but having two varieties should increase our yield. I will say it may be a moot point because it looks like the Red Haven’s are blossoming earlier than the Belle. I guess we’ll see. Regardless, the flowers are ready for the bees. We just need a little less wind, and the bees to discover the new trees. Then we should have peaches as early as this August if all goes exceedingly well.

Only other things of note: we took a box of junk to the e-recycling event in the park this morning. Of course they wouldn’t take our broken blender which kind of irritated me quite frankly. I took it home and it was easier to take apart than any other electronic device I’ve encountered lately. And voila it had a motor and circuit board – things I would think could be recycled. But “no” big bad e-recycler people don’t want blenders. Whatever. I took it apart, my kid will play with the part and then I’ll dump it all in the next e-recycling box. Except the housing and motor – those will go in a landfill and we all can blame the recycling guys who hate the planet.

Also I fixed the drawer on the wife’s Kohler bathroom cabinet. For whatever reason the wheel started falling out of the track. I bent the track back into place, cleaned the construction debris throughout the track areas and lubricated the wheels on the drawer with some WD-40. Seems better.

And as inspired by my fellow blogger at ’40 Is Like The New 30′, I will share a song to go with this post: none other than ‘Peaches’ by The Presidents of the United States of America.

 

Quercus Rubra

For Earth Day this year we went to Lowe’s to buy a tree. Christine spied a tall red oak that had a nice trunk caliper. I referenced our landscape master plan and sure enough, it called for two red oaks just east of what was supposed to be the wine garden; which is now our apple orchard.

As we paid for the tree I wasn’t sure if it’d even fit in the RAV4. I told the cashier I may be bringing the tree back. With as much dexterity as two adults and two kids could muster, we delicately put the tree into the Toyota, pointy bits first. I stacked up several bags of stone I had bought for the new bee hive stand, off to one side of the trunk. Propping the root ball end up on the stone pile, I beckoned the wife to come on back – we needed her to sit in the back and hold the tree in place all the way home.

But the tree did fit.

Once home I eyeballed where I thought the plan called for our new leafy friend to go. And I actually was pretty darn close. I dug a hole, added some top soil from the nearby stock pile and our new tree was in place. Judging by the location, someday this oak will tower over the orchard, and actually shade it too much in the morning, but by time it reaches 80′ tall and 50′ wide I’ll be nothing but dust underneath it.

Red Oaks are magnificent trees. I had previously planted several red oak saplings, but alas I don’t think any survive any more. They can live to be 500 years old. Eventually the tree will bear acorns, that the animals will like.

Christine’s oak will look over us for years to come and nurture our land, just as she nurtures our family.

Beyond planting the oak, I also installed stones around the base of the last bee hive stand. Our bees will be ready for pick up in the next couple days, so it’s imperative that we are ready for them.

I also tried to kill some ants at the base of a red bud tree with water and vinegar, as well as cornmeal. Not much luck so far.

The sandbox is under way, but wait for the next post for my over view of that project.

Here are some pics for your enjoyment.

Four bags of stone, placed over the tar paper and under the pavers to provide some stability and drainage for the bee hive stand. Also keep the tar paper from flying away.

Four bags of stone, placed over the tar paper and under the pavers to provide some stability and drainage for the bee hive stand. Also keep the tar paper from flying away.

Every night the deer wander through the yard, only about 15' from the dining room windows. It's like living at a zoo. They love the clover in our yard.

Every night the deer wander through the yard, only about 15′ from the dining room windows. It’s like living at a zoo. They love the clover in our yard.

I tried killing an ant hill at the base of our red bud tree with a mixture of vinegar and water from a spray bottle. And I poured corn meal around the base as well.

I tried killing an ant hill at the base of our red bud tree with a mixture of vinegar and water from a spray bottle. And I poured corn meal around the base as well.

Setting the 4x4 posts for the sandbox with cement.

Setting the 4×4 posts for the sandbox with cement.

My jeep made it out of the garage after six long months in the hibernation.

My jeep made it out of the garage after six long months in the hibernation.

The house as viewed from our country lane.

The house as viewed from our country lane.

My Garage Organization Project

Over Easter weekend I tackled a project that I had been looking forward since we moved in: organizing the garage. And while it’s not 100% all good, it’s a huge improvement. I’m loving it.

I rummaged around the garage and came up with a few hollow bi-fold doors that would make perfect shelves. I also had a couple of pieces of 2’x4′ pegboard that I brought from the old house. I supplemented those items with 12′ worth of Gladiator brand organization track, and accessories, as well as premade metal shelf brackets from Lowe’s (~$125 worth of stuff).

First up was putting up a shelf and pegboard above the gardening area. I located the studs at 16″ on center in that area. There is an electrical box and a window in the way so I had to scratch my head a little bit as to where I wanted to mount the shelf brackets. Also I didn’t want to lose vertical height; mounting the shelf brackets above the pegboard, so I decided to mount the brackets ON TOP OF the pegboard.

Pegboard requires 1×2 furring strips so the panel stands off of the wall, allowing the peg hooks to have clearance and work properly. I cut the strips and mounted them over each stud location using my favorite screws: SPAX #8 2-1/2″ wood to wood screws.

1x2 furring strips where each stud lies behind the drywall. I will attach peg boards to the strips, notching it for the windows.

1×2 furring strips where each stud lies behind the drywall. I will attach peg boards to the strips, notching it for the windows.

I then mounted the pegboard panel, which I had to notch to clear the window, using smaller 1-1/2″ SPAX screws. On top of the pegboard I then fastened the metal shelf brackets using 2-1/2″ screws, through the bracket, pegboard, furring strip, drywall and into the wood stud.

I mounted the brackets over the pegboard and drywall, where the wall studs are.

I mounted the brackets over the pegboard and drywall, where the wall studs are.

Once that was done I was ready for the shelf. Like I said I reused some old hollow bi-fold door panels that were about 6′ x 12″ for the shelf. I had to cut the one end down, at a 45 degree angle to fit, and to make sure we didn’t hit our head as we came and went through the garage man door.  Because the door is hollow, the cut end looks weird but form follows function, and the door, er, shelf material was free after all. I used 1-1/2″ deck / drywall screws to attach the bottom of the shelf to the metal brackets. I also ran a 2-1/2″ screw through the top of the shelf into the top of the furring strips – the doors have solid would all along the perimeter so by running a screw through there where I could was an added measure of security.

Lining up the 45 degree cut on the hollow bi-fold door. Measure 12 inches up on both sides of the square along the same edge.

Lining up the 45 degree cut on the hollow bi-fold door. Measure 12 inches up on both sides of the square along the same edge.

The door are hollow and my SPAX screws proved to aggressive to attach the bottom of the bracket to the shelf. So I used some small deck / drywall screws that worked just right.

The door are hollow and my SPAX screws proved to aggressive to attach the bottom of the bracket to the shelf. So I used some small deck / drywall screws that worked just right.

Here you can see the 45 degree angle I cut on the end of the hollow bi-fold door that is now my garage shelf.

Here you can see the 45 degree angle I cut on the end of the hollow bi-fold door that is now my garage shelf.

Well we're a little more organized now.

Well we’re a little more organized now.

Here you can see I added another piece of pegboard and shelf to the other side.

Here you can see I added another piece of pegboard and shelf to the other side.

It was nice to have the added organization space above the garden work area and my work bench. I mirrored the set up on the other side of the window and was good to go.

Next up I quickly added a 1/2″ plywood shelf over the toy area per the wife’s request. I used up some scrap material and mounted that to three simpler metal brackets.

I added this quick simple shelf, made of 1/2" plywood and store bought brackets.

I added this quick simple shelf, made of 1/2″ plywood and store bought brackets.

Over to the far end of the garage I had a pile of yard tools leaning up in a pile in the corner. My plan was to put a Gladiator brand track up, then a bi-fold door shelf above that, and then way up high use a couple hooks I had lying around to hang up the extension ladder.

It took some time but I decided to run all 12′ of track in one line, even with the bottom of the window. The stud layout worked out perfectly – I didn’t have to cut any of the tracks. I decided not to temp fate though, and I predrilled all the tracks, in prep for using more 2-1/2″ wood screws to mount the them to the wall. I used a level, marked my studs and the tracks went up without any cause for concern.

Drilling pilot holes in the Gladiator track before mounting them to the wall.

Drilling pilot holes in the Gladiator track before mounting them to the wall.

A detail of the Gladiator track installed. I used 2-1/2" long SPAX screws.

A detail of the Gladiator track installed. I used 2-1/2″ long SPAX screws.

I then mounted shelf brackets above the track, the door shelf to the brackets and eventually the ladder hooks way up high. I intentionally tried to stagger how much I was screwing into each stud to try to keep the load distributed across the wall. The track goes into every stud obviously. Shelf brackets, I mounted those higher and tried to skip a few studs. Then the ladder hooks higher up on lesser used studs.

In addition to the Gladiator track I added another hollow bi-fold door shelf and even hung up the extension ladder way up high, out of the way.

In addition to the Gladiator track I added another hollow bi-fold door shelf and even hung up the extension ladder way up high, out-of-the-way.

I spent some time noodling over the Gladiator accessories I had purchased, but eventually got a set up I liked. Just above the electric trimmer I mounted the battery charger, using my favorite wall anchors and screws.  The charger is conveniently located near an outlet.

I mounted the recharger for the trimmer just above the track, near the timmer and an outlet.

I mounted the charger for the trimmer just above the track, near the trimmer and an outlet.

Now our garage is organized. For the most part. And I can start enjoying it. I can’t wait to work in the garden, or make bird boxes, with all our tools, and supplies easily accessible. The best part is I was able to use many materials that we had on hand, so it kept costs down.

Have any questions?

Know any tips or tricks?

Share in the comments below.