Beekeeping in England

While visiting our friends in England, at their home, they have a couple of bee hives.  Some friends of theirs are the beekeepers, so they come and check the hives regularly.

It was fun to see the bees go about their business and see a little bit of beekeeping even in our trip.  Because beekeeping is a worldwide language.

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We had left our bees at home (of course), but Mark enjoyed getting in the hive with their friends, and seeing an English hive… not sure there was much difference from ours here.  But hey! You’ve got to poke around to learn, right?

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They had placed a new queen in the hive few weeks before we arrived, so they had been checking on her and how the hive was doing.

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All looked good.  It made all three beekeepers happy, because you know the saying… “happy queen, happy bees, happy beekeepers!”

 

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snowing apples + blog anniversary

Well you probably know, that it can’t actually snow apples.  I know.  But it is snowing apple blossoms, though!  Though both of our bee hives disappeared during the winter (we are very sad about that) it seems as though the apple trees have gone bananas with their flowers this year again.

Both apple trees have been beautiful, so filled with blossoms since we’ve had the bees, 3 years ago. I think these little insects have done their amazing job.

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The blooms just opening was the sight of few weeks ago.  And look at them now.

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The trees, filled, so filled with blossoms.  So, so very beautiful.

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It looks like snow on the ground.  That’s what I was saying…


As I am typing this, the computer reminded me that today, on my 912th post, it is my blog anniversary.  Three years ago, I started writing in here.  I know I tried another blogging spot for few posts, but then I quickly moved to wordpress, which has been really easy to use.

Most importantly, it reminded me that I started this blog to share with family and friends our trip to India, we were about to adventure to. It was the perfect reason to get me started, and have enjoyed every part of it.  Writing and learning about blogging as we were getting ready for our trip.   Writing and sharing while in India.  Writing and continuing after our return.

My parents are still far away, no matter if we’ve been to India or here in Oregon. So it is a way for them to see what we are up to.  Also, it has been a means to meet new people, and still share with our friends and families.  And of course, as the time passes, we can see how much the kids have grown, what we’ve studied, what we’ve made, what we’ve done.  A real online journal that lets us share it with you.

Thank you for stopping by.  Thank you for leaving comments and suggestions.  Thank you for introducing yourselves.  Thank you for spending part of your days here.  I feel honored.   My sincere thank you.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Cleaning the honey combs : A tutorial of sorts

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Few weeks ago, Mark got into our top bar hive in the back yard.  He took as much honey as he thought was enough and we’ve been enjoying that.  It’s not a whole lot, but we feel funny taking their honey, and especially in the fall, when they are getting ready to be ready for the winter months.  I wonder if we should do this in the spring instead.

Anyways.  I ended up with a handful of mashed honey combs and some combs that didn’t have any honey, but I wasn’t sure how to clean them.  I had some from last year too, that we’ve been keeping in the fridge.

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I looked online and found out that I could get the combs hot in water, so the wax melts, and clean the wax from the honey and other impurities by passing it through a sieve.  So that’s exactly what I did.

First I was going to use one of our pots, but in one of the videos I watched they suggested using one specifically for this.  So I went to the thrift store and bought a pot and a big colander.

DSC_0072-smallAnd now that I’ve done it once, I’m glad I bought a pot for this, and with two handles.  It gets heavy and hot with the boiling water and wax, and it felt better to have both hands holding it while dumping it through the colander to the bucket, to cool.

So this is how I did it.

1- Get your supplies clean and ready to go, handy.  Big pot.  A metal colander.  A bucket.  Cheesecloth.

2- I got the honey combs that remained from getting the honey.  And some empty combs that didn’t have honey to begin with.  They were growing crooked in the hive, so Mark got them out and I’m thinking we can use them as well.

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3- Put water in the pot and the combs you’d like to clean.  Place them in the water.  Carefully heat up the pot, keeping an eye on it.  Since it beeswax after all!

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4- Heat up the pot (water + crushed combs) until beeswax melts.

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The pot will have a brown-ish liquid that has the water and wax mixed.

5- Put the (metal) colander over the clean bucket, and pour the water + wax mix carefully in.  If it splashes you will learn that it the water with wax will quickly dry and you will have to spend more time cleaning it off.

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6- This is what the colander will look like with what remains from the combs.  Things I probably don’t want in the candles or lip balm we will make with our very local beeswax!

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7- Repeat steps 3 through 6 a couple more times, until you get as much unwanted debris from the wax as you want.  After cleaning it three times this way, I passed it through a cheesecloth twice.

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And this is what I had after few hours of work.  not really hard work, but mostly wait.  On the left, a bowl with the “debris” from what’s left behind on the colander.  And the right, a few sheets of beeswax.

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As you can see here, the wax has lots of impurities still.  So I melted it all the sheets of beeswax together, one more time, and put it through a piece of cheesecloth on top of the colander.

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And I think it ended up looking a little better.

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I’m not sure what makes our beeswax very yellow, but everyone here says it smells good.  And still has some grits.  But I think we’ll use it as is and see how it works.  I’m excited to have our own wax.  And the delicious honey, of course.

The bees + their honey

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Last week, Mark got in to the top bar bee hive we have in the backyard.  He’s been wanting to see how the bees are doing before all the rain starts, and wanting to get some of the honey.

This is the first time he’s ever gotten in there with the intension to get the honey.  Last year, it wasn’t a good summer for them, so Mark didn’t take much.  Just a couple of small combs that were growing crooked.

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This time, he went in, knowing it was going to be OK to take some of their honey. It feels weird to do that though.  I don’t work with the bees, and I do love honey, still,  it seems that we are stealing what’s theirs.  I feel bad.

But oh…. the honey… and I love that our kids can have it, with all its benefits.  So it makes me feel a little better.  It’s for a ‘good cause’, if you will…

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Mark in the hive, found a few cells from where the queens were born.  It is so fascinating.

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Isn’t it incredible?

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So this is it. Look at how dark the honey looks.  Oh… and it is so good!  Especially eating it straight from the comb… oh so good.

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After letting it drain for a couple of days, hoping for a little warmer weather (so it drains easier), we put the honey into jars.  We have 3 1/4 pints of beautiful golden delicious honey.  Oh… so amazing.  Thank you ladies!  Thank you for the honey.  Hope you enjoy your cozy home this winter again.  We’ll keep an eye on you.  Don’t you worry.  We’ll take care of you.  Thank you for everything.

The bees + the swarms + bee-sharing

This year, with two hives, we saw more swarms.

DSC_0131-smallThis one, was the first one from our top hive, in the back yard.

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Here’s a video I took.  You can hear a little the bees flying, but nothing really compared to being in the middle of it.  I recommend it, if you are not allergic to bee stings, or don’t mind getting a little closer.  I haven’t gotten stung watching them.  It’s just amazing.

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I love how intense it is.  The sound, I find it paralizing.

DSC_0144-small DSC_0145-smallIncredible.

DSC_0146-small DSC_0159-smallJust totally incredibly amazing.

DSC_0160-small DSC_0161-smallFirst of all.  How do they decide where to swarm to.  How do they all communicate with each other.  How do they know when to go.  How can they hang on to each other in this huge, very huge mass, from one branch.

DSC_0165-smallMark decided he was able to get this swarm down.  We have some friends that built a hive and were ready for them.

DSC_0166-smallSo they got up there.

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So much fun to see them calm and working together getting all these bees in a box.  Making sure they get the queen.

DSC_0198-small DSC_0199-small DSC_0201-smallJustin making sure he got all his new ladies (and gentlemen.)

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One more bunch and they got almost all the bees.  Great work!

DSC_0222-smallAnd time to take them fast to their new home.  Bee-sharing, a great thing.

One more video of Justin and Mark shaking the tree to get the bees into the box.  Hoping the queen got in there and knowing later on, it had.  Almost all the bees were taken to their new home at Justin’s.  Bye ladies!  I’m sure you’ll be well taken cared of.

The bees’s remodel : Part 2 or is it Portlandia?

So the next day, after Mark had added the two new boxes to our Warre hive, while we were gone, the bees swarmed.

DSC_0208-small DSC_0210-smallAnd with the beautiful, blooming doogwood right there, I would not have gone far either.

DSC_0214-small DSC_0215-small DSC_0216-smallI just love the contrast, the colors, the warmth, the life-ness of it all, right there.

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We were getting ready to leave for dinner at some friends’ house, but we had to deal with this bee emergency. Well, it became an emergency when we thought maybe the bees had left their new remodeled, larger home.  And we didn’t want them going too far.  So Mark called our bee friend from Bee Thinking for some information and what he suggested doing.

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He took a closer look at the hive and too how many bees were left.  Were they all gone and moved out of their bigger, remodeled hive? Or was it just a swarm, they had planned way before “we” (Mark) added the two boxes the day before?

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Mark was uncertain.  To our new-to-beekeeping knowledge, we couldn’t tell for certain.  So Matt, came to check, and hopefully give us the good news, that it was just a swarm, and that we still, indeed, had a healthy hive.

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And yes.  He came later that evening.

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Lucas and I went to our planned dinner with friends, while Siena stayed behind with Mark, doing the right thing for our bees, and the  swarm on our roof.  Actually by this point we had learned there was another swarm in our neighbors backyard.  We don’t know where that one came from, but maybe was from our hive in the backyard.  We don’t know.  But at least, if Matt told us we had a good hive, he could go home with two swarms to give to the many people in his wait list, here in Portland.

DSC_0222-smallAnd do you see my daughter here?  She’s wearing the other bee net we have, and decided to stay with the bees (and Mark and two other bee excited people) instead of going to play with a friend.

Because we were gone, nobody took pictures.  I wish I could have.  Mark says it was funny. Having three adult people wearing that bee, white suit, working in the front yard, with a shorter one on rain coat and books and a net hat.

DSC_0217-smallNot only did they work on our front yard, getting a box for the hive up in our roof (that ended up staying there for 2 days, because the bees would’t move in as easy as they thought they would.)  They also waked around the block, to get to our neighbor’s backyard, by this time, each with a flashlight.

I can only imagine what they looked like.  The first thing that comes to mind as Mark is describing me their evening, is the show Portlandia.  I’ve only seen a few pieces of episodes, but I can see this sight fitting perfectly fine… don’t you?

Ah! And yes, the two swarms have been delivered to better homes and our hive, is doing well and doing all the healthy things they are suppose to be doing at this time of the year.

The bees get a little remodel : Part 1

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So, we’ve had two boxes in our Warre hive for about a year, so Mark decided to add two more boxes.  I guess it’s not so little of a remodel for the bees… they are getting double square footage, and we hope they like it.

DSC_0126-smallWe are each watching from where we feel comfortable, and help Mark as we can.  Me, mostly taking pictures, as you see…

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We also noticed that our stand was sagging, probably with all the rain from last year and the weight of the combs, honey and bees.  So we decide to change the base too.

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Imagine these bees… they are all doing their job and all of a sudden their roof, actually their whole home is lifted… not sure what I would do if this happened to me?

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So we put a new, brick base this time.  I think that should be better.

DSC_0134-small DSC_0135-smallMark puts the bars in the new boxes.

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And the bees are still flying back and I bet they are not sure what’s going on with their home.  But Mark is working as quick as he can.

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These ladies, and gentlemen have a new, bigger home.  And it’s looking like they like it alright.  Mark will go in and check their combs in more detail in few more days.  For now we are checking to see how they are doing in their bigger space.

Working bees

The weather tells me that is spring.  Sunny one minute, rainy the next, pouring an hour later, almost freezing at night, hot enough (for Portland standards) to wear shorts and t-shirt the next day.

I think the bees are excited the weather is better, and they are doing their job.   Mark checked the hive in the backyard, our first one, to give them more space and make sure they are doing well.  I think they are.  But we are learning as we go and spend more time with them.

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We had a swarm last week, from our other hive.

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They were flying like crazy, so many out of the hive, the sound amazing.  I find it so incredible how they work and live together, a society I don’t even begin to understand, but I’m always amazed at everything I learn about them.

They went right next to them, to our very old dogwood.  They looked amazing, up there.  I wonder how much weight that is for the branch.  Look at them!

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After watching them for a while, and seeing them move from one branch to another and all of them gather in this spot after about 20 minutes, I went to get the zoom for my camera, to get a closer look. By the time I came back, they had moved to our neighbor’s tree, way up higher, and more covered.  We wondered if it was too hot for them here.  Don’t know.

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I love that my kids are so familiar with the bees that they know which ones to pick up.  The drones don’t sting, and they like to show them to everyone passing by.  But not everybody gets the same excitement than they do when they offer with a smile “would you like to hold this bee?” But it is perfect for my picture too!

Oh… do you remember the spring last year and our bee adventures? I hope these ladies are happy right in these homes of theirs.  We like watching them and hopefully we’ll get to try some of their hard work, that delicious honey.  Oh, I hope so!