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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Updates and News

With the bone chilling, shortened, and often gray days of winter here in Northern Kentucky, there hasn't been much in the way of beekeeping going on, but I did want to post an update for those of you who still read this blog, even during the winter.

First, I did finish my novel. It's just as bad as I expected it to be and will never again see the light of day. I'm glad I spent the time writing it and I have decided that I will never be a writer.

Second, I found out this week that I am being transferred to Charlotte, NC. The family and I are very excited about the prospect of heading to a new town for new adventures. What does this mean for my bees? Well, if Exodus has survived, I'll sell the bees, but if not, it won't be a problem. I am planning on taking my hives with me and starting them up again. Since we'll be moving during the summer, there is no use in repopulating the Genesis hive and so my beekeeping for 2010 is most likely going to be put on hold.

Finally, I know that many of you are waiting for the next podcast episode. I'm not sure when that will be, but please be patient. Keep checking back and let me know what your plans are for 2010.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Writing a Novel About Beekeeping

Some of you have been wondering where I've been and why I haven't updated my podcast in quite a long time.

Well, first off, I'm doing just fine. However, I have been busy, and although not entirely on the subject of beekeeping, I thought I would share this anyway.

I have been distracted by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you who don't know what it is, it's an annual event whereby professional writers, authors, or just wannabe writers, of which I am none of the above (I'm just a regular person who tries different things). All attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

I'm currently at 32,652 words or 65% complete. My novel is about a terrorist plot to destroy the worlds honeybee population and the race to stop it. So, it is kinda beekeeping related, in a way.

So, that's what I've been up to. Planning and now writing my novel. Something I've always wanted to do.

I have gotten some good feedback lately and I'm excited about the next few episodes of the podcast which, hopefully will be out soon.

Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Genesis Crash, Paying the Rent, and Final Inspections

I've been meaning to get out to my hive for a while now to do a final inspection and prepare the hives for the winter. The weather here has turned cooler with temperatures dipping down into the 40's at night. The days are still warm, but winter is surely coming.

First, I payed the 'rent'. I took the landowner/farmer four pounds of honey. I think that's pretty fair given that I only got about 23lbs total. As suspected, he was very appreciative and commented on how light the honey looked.

Upon my arrival at the hives, I immediately noticed that there was absolutely no activity at Genesis. I donned my full beekeeper suit and smoker and cracked open the lid to find nothing but cockroaches, wax moths, and a stray bee or two. Interestingly, there were very few dead bees inside the hive. It looked like someone had decided to turn my hive into a haunted hive with all of the cobwebs, moth damage, and the silence.

Exodus continues to amaze me. I wasn't sure about this hive, but the incredible number of bees inside was exciting to see. There were lots of baby bees which tells me I still have a good, healthy hive at this point. I had left a couple supers on this hive, hoping that they would capture some of the late honey, which they did, but not I have a few frames of uncapped and capped honey. My mentor told me to freeze it, and then give it back to them in the spring if I don't mind blending spring with fall. No problem there.

I did see capped brood, eggs, and some honey stored up for winter. These bees will need fed in the next few days and I'll be brewing up some heavy syrup for the winter feeding.

Overall, I'm excited that at least one of my hives made it. It's been two years and I was fortunate to get some honey and learn a lot about the Genesis hive during the time it thrived. I'll be doing a good cleaning and painting of Genesis and will be welcoming a new package of bees in the spring.

Thanks to all of you who offered advice on what to do and how to save Genesis, but it just was not meant to be.

Monday, September 28, 2009

013 - Interview With Linda Tillman

In this episode of The Beekeeping Podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Tillman, better known as 'Beekeeping Linda.

Linda is actively involved in the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers association as well a titan of the beekeeping blogs. She was gracious enough to answer lots of questions about what makes a good beekeeping club, beekeeping and technology, and her experience in chronicling her beekeeping experience on the web.

Links mentioned on the podcast:

Friday, August 7, 2009

2009 Boone County Fair Results

Back in February, I stated that one of my goals for the 2009 beekeeping season was to enter the local Boone County Fair with my honey. I think showing honey is a great way to share the rewards of beekeeping with non-beekeepers and, hopefully, encourage others to get started in beekeeping themselves. It's also a friendly way of competing with fellow beekeepers.

Well, I did it! This year, thanks to the bees, I took 2nd place for a full frame of honey and 3rd place for a 1lb jar of white extracted honey. I've recieved beautiful red and white ribbons to show for the effort, five dollars total prize money, and more importantly, I learned about the judging and correct display of honey and frames of honey. This will certainly be a topic of a future episode of The Beekeeping Podcast.

Congratulations to my beekeeping mentor, Susie, who took 1st place in both the same categories I entered. That's really the way it should be, for as it is wisely written, "The disciple is not above his master..." (Luke 6:40).

I'm already looking forward to next years competition.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Episode 012 - Brewing Mead With Your Honey

In this episode, I discuss one of the best things a beekeeper can do with their honey, brew a delicious batch of mead. Mead is an adult beverage somewhere between beer and wine and dates back thousands of years. With just a few ingredients, a few pieces of basic brewing equipment, and some time, you too can brew a five gallon batch of mead.

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Finally, here is my recipe, adapted from Papazian's Antipodal Mead recipe.

(This will make roughly 5 gallons or 30 750ml bottles)

15lbs Light Honey
Filtered Water
1 Package of Dry Champagne Yeast
Yeast Nutrient

Optional, but recommended:
Gypsym - Amount as recommended by manufacturer
Irish Moss - Amount as recommended by manufacturer
Yeast Nutrient - Amount as recommended by manufacturer
Acid Blend - Amount as recommended by manufacturer

Combine honey and water to equal 5 gallons in stainless steel pot. Add Irish Moss directly to pot. Boil for 15 minutes, removing scum and any other undesirable foam. Remove from heat, cover immediately, and allow to cool to room temperature (this may take several hours). Transfer to carboy. Hydrate yeast using one cup warm water, heated in microwave. Warm, not hot! Pitch into carboy. Add gypsum, acid blend, and yeast nutrient. Immediately seal carboy with airlock. Allow to ferment completely at room temperature for about 6 weeks or until airlock completely stops bubbling, and only after taking a hydrometer reading. Transfer to new container and allow to clarify for 6 months or more. Transfer as needed to clarify. Bottle, enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Episode 011 - Starting With Two Hives?

In this episode, I share reasons why starting with two hives is important for beginners. I also give an update on my hives and talk about my extraction and getting ready for the fair.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 Honey Harvest

Today was honey harvest day. Perhaps the best day of a beekeeper's season. A close second would be the first spring inspection where live bees are found inside a hive. But, I digress.

Since the local county fair is next week and I made it one of my 2009 beekeeping season goals to show honey this year, I went out and harvested what the bees have produced since April 9th.

Early this morning I dropped by the county extension office and picked up the extractor. Both hives had honey in the supers, but Exodus had nearly 6 of 10 frames complete. Genesis had barely a combined 3 of 10. I was really suprised because I had thought this year would be even better than last years 36 lbs.

We decided to make it a family event and everyone was assigned tasks. I use the method recommended to me by my beekeeping mentor and simply scratch the cappings open and then spin the honey out. After filtering the honey through a simple colander we bottled it up. We ended the day with 23.5 lbs and one full frame to show at the fair.

I was a little disappointed with the quantity thus far, but my wife (The Queen Bee) reminded me that we aren't trying to make a living selling honey. Thank goodness for that! She so wisely explained that the kids loved working in 'the honey factory' and it offered them something very special and unique to do with their dad. So true...indeed today was the best day of this beekeeper's season.

Here are some pictures.

Thriving vs. Failing Hive

Today I went out to harvest the honey from Genesis and Exodus so I would have some honey to show at the local fair next week. More about the harvest in the next post, but a quick hive update.

Exodus: Of course, this hive continues to thrive. Lots of bees and activity and lots of honey stored up for the winter. Could this be a sign of a cold winter to come? I don't know. I need to find a good frame of eggs in this hive as well. There is so much honey that I don't want it to become honey-bound. I have seen minimal eggs in my latest inspections.

Genesis: If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think this comparison tells it all. This is a failing hive. Not a single egg, minimal brood, and no queen cells from the frame I transfered last week into this hive. Honey levels remain low and unless I get a new queen in this hive, I believe it will fail very quickly. Another concerning thing that I saw were hundreds of dead bees on the screened bottom board (after tearing into this hive). The bees are just too depressed to do any housecleaning, or my making the hive entrance too small has limited their ability to clean out the hive. Anyone have any ideas on this? I also believe that this hive is being visited by a skunk or raccoon. I also did a powdered sugar shake on this hive to knock down some of the Varroa.

I think this is why it is important for new beekeepers to always have more than one hive. One can compare and contrast the health and well-being of one hive with another.

Monday, July 20, 2009

From Exodus to Genesis - Transfer of Brood and Eggs

Today I went back to the hives to check on Genesis.

Genesis: Again, there was very little activity outside. The queen cells remained uncapped, no eggs in sight, and no sign of a queen. I decided to transfer a brood frame from Exodus to Genesis. Needless to say, both hives were a little unhappy with my taking them down to the brood chamber. No stings, but plenty of buzzing around and bumping me. I also reduced the entrance to the bare minimum in order to help them defend the hive. Minor honey stores.

Oddly, I saw some mud on the front entrance which could indicate skunks visiting Genesis. The next time I go, I'll have to place some rolled up wire fence in front of the hive.

Exodus: Plenty of bees, activity, and massive amounts of honey in this hive. Way to go girls!