Friday, March 29, 2013

The bees move in

The bees have arrived, and so has a cold front! But given the difficulty of obtaining bees right now, rescheduling wasn't on my agenda.

Instead, I got some help from a trusted friend, and installed the bees in my garage for a few nights. Sounds so easy!
The process itself wasn't so bad. The first step is to fish the queen cage out of the package and install it onto a frame foundation, like so:
The queen is in a cage plugged with some sugar candy, for her own protection. It will take a while for the bees to accept this new queen as their own. While they get used to her pheromones, they will eat away at the sugar and free her over the course of 2-3 days.
After the queen is installed, the bees can be shaken from the package directly into the hive. Pop a lid on top and done! Oh wait. It's still pretty cold out, and no nectar is flowing. Bees need to eat, too! I installed interior syrup feeders in both hives.

Then I waited until evening, presumably any stray bees would have returned to their colonies. Sadly, many of them died of exposure even in the garage! At night, I duct taped window screen over all openings of the hive and that's how they were for 2 days. And they were not very happy about that.


On day 3, we carried the hives outside to their final location and removed the screens. Oh happy day! Somehow the bees make me feel a whole lot closer to living on a real homestead. Next up: We'll plant them an orchard!

If you want to see a video of me hiving a package of bees, click here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A homemade birdfeeder

This birdfeeder was inspired by the wonderful book Rhythms of Family by Amanda Blake Soule, aka soulemama. We took a solid straight looking log, and my handy husband drilled holes about 2/3 of the way through, using a 2in drillbit. He also added a few dowels where there weren't any natural landing spots for the bird, and a hook at the top.
The filling part is messy but fun for kids to do. We used a mixture of melted suet or tallow, softened peanut butter, and bulk purchased mixed birdseed. Start with what looks like the amount of seed you need and add the fats slowly. Test for stickiness, the suet is liquidy at first but once outside, hardens nicely and the birds love it. I ran out of peanut butter for the refills, and that worked just fine, too. If you end up making more than you need, it stored fine in a lidded jar in the fridge for a few weeks. 

For filling the birdfeeder, you want the filling hand warm (microwave if needed) and then you just get down and dirty and smush it into the predrilled holes. We ended up making two feeders, and hung one under our front porch and one right outside the dining room window. I was worried that they were too close to the house for the birds' comfort but I was wrong! These feeders were enormously popular. Here are some visitors we saw.

The Big Fat Robin

My favorite bird, the tufted titmouse.

 I just love this picture. Wasn't even intentional, and I considered cropping it but then I decided I liked the big blue.

 This red breasted nuthatch was the most acrobatic of the bunch. We loved the antics!
 And sorry for the blurry picture, this was a difficult customer to catch. Looks like a downy woodpecker to me, yes? The right one has the red spot, the left one might be a female.
The birdfeeder held up beautifully throughout the season and is now packed away for the summer. The kids can't wait to refill it come the first snow. But for that, we can wait.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Shared at