Sunday, March 31, 2013

Preparing for Backyard Bees

A good investment for any homestead is bees.  Benefits include pollination of your garden, honey and beeswax.  Back in November we ordered 2 colonies.  Each colony comes with 3 pounds of bees (approx. 3,000 of them!) and a queen.  We were a tad unprepared due to momma's lack of educating herself (woops!)  
You should have your bee boxes set up and ready before you pick up your bee colonies.  We didn't.
One great thing about having a large family is this...many hands equal light work.  It's so very true.  What would've taken a few days from just one or two people working, we finished in less than 2 hours!
Here is what we learned that evening...
A hive consists of many elements.  Many.  And it all had to be put together or painted before the bees could be installed.
1)bottom board 
2)entrance reducer 
3)brood box
4)frames to hold the larve and eventually honey that go in the brood box
5)foundation to put in the frames for a new hive.  They are made from beeswax and give the bees something to start building on.
6)queen excluder.  This is a metal frame that keeps the queen below in the brood box.  She cannot fit through the slats, and thus cannot lay eggs in the upper boxes where honey is stored.
5)a feeder for winter months.  There are several types...we are trying 2 different ones; a top feeder and a plain old ziploc bag

Everyone took part and it was quite the learning about real live science class!!!
Ben is removing a wood slat from the frame so that daddy can add the foundation.  Once Jason places the foundation in he tacks the wood slat back in place to hold it in.
Caitlin and Graycie's job was to paint the boxes.  This is not absolutely  necessary and we would've prefered the wood to be natural so the hive can "breathe" better, but after talking to many different experienced beekeepers they all gave the same piece of advice...paint them so they last for years.  Only the outside was painted, first with a oil based primer, then with regular latex paint.
The next morning the kids and I brought all the components outside and picked a SUNNY spot to assemble them.  There are beetles that will invade the hive if you put it in a shady spot.  We put the hives up on bricks to make it easier for us to get into them.
10 frames belong in each brood, but the method we are using to get the bees in the hives requires a space for their box they came shipped in.  In 5 days when we check on them, the box will be removed and the rest of the frames installed. 
Once the bees get established in their box there are several different options for building the hive vertically.  For now, we only got an addition for 1 brood...a "shallow super".  It's called a "super" because that's where the super honey is stored!  There were 3 different sizes, we went with the smallest for now.  
Once the hives are 80% established, meaning when we check on them 8 of the 10 frames are full of larve, we will need to add a "super" to each hive.  The only reason why we added 1 super at the beginning is for a feeding source (we are placing a ziploc bag of sugar water and it needs a place to be). 
Here daddy is explaining the process of getting the queen bee out of that box that is full of worker bees!!  Pretty tricky!  
Our 2 colonies
Being new to this, and considering the investment these bees are, we did not want to screw this up!  So we decided to call upon a friend who has experience...Ben the Bee man! (he goes to our chruch!)  What a blessing to have a friend who is willing to take time out of his day to come install our bees!!  Thanks Ben!
The queen has been removed from the big box and is still in her own separate small box...the worker bees have to eat her out of the box!  It is corked with sugar and once they eat all the sugar she is free!  Her box was attached to one of the frames with a rubberband.  The box that the colony of bees came in is then put beside it, open, so they can all come have to work fast!!  Sorry for the lack of pictures but it was so intriging I forgot to look through my lens!!  Here Jason is placing the queen excluder on top of the brood for the ziploc bag of sugar water to sit on.  
 And there you have it!!  Our 2 honey bee hives!  We will check back in 5 days to be sure the queens were both released and the worker bees are starting to build.  The day after we did all this we were outside trimming our peach trees and noticed the bees all over the flowers blooming on it!!  They already feel "at home" :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Milking Stand

The girls and I {tried} milking our momma goats without a stand to lock them into...haha!  It was quite the sight to see, and a moment I will never forget, laughing hysterically at ourselves!
When experienced farmers give their advice...take it!  They all told us the same a stand!  So, this young man took it upon himself to build us a surprise!  He did an awesome job!
Nathan used the tops to our cotton mill boxes from last year's garden.   He made it a perfect height for us gals to sit on a 5 gallon bucket and milk.

 You can see in this picture the top piece to lock the goat's head in with...he screwed one end in and it swivels back and forth.  On the other end, to lock, he drilled a hole bigger than the long screw he used and we just pop it in and out to lock/unlock her.
Here he is last year in February with his rabbit box he built....I'd say his skills have certainly improved!
Success!!  And we've been getting about a cup of milk each day from the 2 goats combined.  Not bad for first timers, us and the goats!!  Currently we are freezing it to use for 2, we are getting another billy goat this week from good milking stock...he will be for mating purposes and will help produce great milkers.  He is only 2 months old and will still need milk.  We are also storing the milk to use for making goat's milk soap.  

Notice the hens on BOTH sides of the fence...darn them!!  They never stay where you want them to stay!!
 We love playing with Nate!!
 We love to climb!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Snowy Saturday

Today is a beautiful, sunny, spectacular day!  Yesterday though, for about 2 hours in the early afternoon it snowed!! Being from Florida our entire lives, we are having so. much. fun. everytime it snows!!  We walked around outside while it was snowing and snapped a few shots.  Just wanted to share some of them.

 Snow cream with homemade caramel!

Friday, March 1, 2013

100 Chicks have arrived!

The broilers are here!!  This is a big step in the right direction for our family farming business...100 meat birds!  

Nothing but cuteness in the barn!! (for now anyways!)
The broilers will be kept safe in the brooder for 2 weeks then put out to pasture to graze on bugs and grass.  If you're local, and are interested in getting naturally raised chicken for your family be sure to place your preorder for a discount by this Monday, March 4th!  Check out our facebook page here to see ordering information.