Friday, July 29, 2011

Inspecting the Hives

Now that the turkeys are sort of squared away I thought I would check on the bees. I took a quick look in the first hive last week but I think I rushed things a little and the bees were not happy. This time I decided to take my time and give them a good smoking in the hopes that it would calm them down.

I packed my smoker with some tinder, sticks and green leaves to make lots of smoke.

I smoked both hives at the entrance and then cracked the tops and smoked in there too. I gave it a few minutes and then smoked them again. When they smell smoke they think there is a forest fire and they eat honey in case they have to evacuate. Once they are full on honey they are supposed to be sluggish and calm.

I opened the second hive first because they are mild compared to the first hive. They haven't gotten much done in the weeks that they've been in here. They are only occupying the three frames that we tied their old comb into at the cut out.

You can see here where they've attached the comb to the side and bottom of the frame.

Here is a piece of comb filled with brood. If you click on it to enlarge the photo you can see growing larvae in some of the open cells. They look like little creamy white crescents. All the brood is a good sign that the queen is laying. If there were more workers they might be able to build comb faster and give the queen more room to lay. It's the dearth right now though, which means that there is not much food out there for them. I'll try to set up a feeder for them this weekend made of sugar and water to see them through the lean time. It would probably still be a good idea to add more bees to this hive to strengthen it. I like that they are nice but I don't like that they are moving so slowly. The bigger and stronger they are the more successful they will be.

Which takes me to the first hive. When I checked on them last week I was concerned that they might be crowded and need more space. It turns out that they had only just started to fill one frame in the top box with comb. I took that box off the hive and set it aside so I could see into the bottom box.

At this point the bees where still pretty calm from the smoking. All of these frames are filled with comb.

When you look closer you can see that there is come bridging the frames which isn't ideal. It makes the frames difficult to extract and sticks everything together. I wanted to look at each frame to see if there was brood and honey and to see how the queen was laying.

As I pried one frame away from the others the bees started to buzz and become agitated. I struggled to pull the frame up and could see the comb start to rip. I stopped taking photos at that point because the bees started to pour out of the hive and surround me.

I love my new bee jacket because it is easy to put on and is nice and heavy but I was only wearing my dickies on the bottom. It turns out they aren't quite heavy enough to protect me from the stingers. You can see three stingers still sticking to my pants.

I thought that I only got stung a couple times but once I took a look it was more like 7 or 8.

I guess I should get a pair a bee pants if I'm going to be working with this aggressive hive. I don't really need to look in the hive too much unless it seems like there is a problem. Once a year I could harvest any excess honey and leave them alone the rest of the time. I guess I have a certain amount of curiosity about what is going on in there though. I think that the better I understand the bees the better steward I will be. That could just be the curiosity talking though.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Turkey Coop, 8

Making a door was one of the last things I had to do for the turkey coop. It just so happens that the chicken coop has two doors. I borrowed one, temporarily, for the turkey coop.

I had a piece of sheet metal that was the original door that came with the shed kit. I screwed that over the opening. It's ugly but will keep predators out until I can replace the door.

The chicken door looks a little twee in the context of the turkey coop.

I also hit my head on the top a couple times. It will be nice to get a taller door in here at some point.

The other things I need to finish before moving the turkeys up was to fill in all the openings that a critter could get through. There were gaps between the rafters above the top plate that I filled with 2x4s

I added hardware cloth at the base to inhibit digging.

And I filled in the gaps between the back wall and the hill.

The mesh was just held on with staples so I covered the ends with particle board to hold it down. I'll replace it later with something more durable and better looking.

My goal was to make the coop safe enough to move the turkeys up. I can paint and finish all the details before the rain starts in the fall.

They aren't crazy about being picked up. Here's one of the blue slate toms.

Here he is in the new coop. I think his head is so red because he was pissed. I still hadn't cleared all of the scraps out yet. I just wanted to get them moved.

Next came the only hen out of the four. She was similarly unsettled by my laying hands on her.

I managed to bring the last two up together. I would guess that they are about half as big as they will eventually get but they already seem so big to me. I'm glad that they have room to flap and run around.

You can see the gaps at the base that I still needed to fill in. I filled in dirt on the inside and added dirt on the outside to the same incline of the hill. Eventually I'd like the floor of the coop to be level but I'll have time to do that later.

Alex has decreed that there will be no more building projects for the rest of the summer. I think he's sick of me spending every weekend, all weekend up on the hill. I'm sick of it too. It will be nice to spend some time in the garden instead :)

Alex has also identified which turkey will be the first dinner. It's the one that did this to him:

We were trying to show the turkeys the roost where they can sleep off the ground. It turns out they have little velociraptor claws. Fine, they can sleep on the ground.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Turkey Coop, 7

Well, it looks like the turkey's are going to have to spend a few more days crammed in the tractor. I just couldn't get it finished. I started to worry that rushing things would endanger the turkeys. I'm still concerned about critters digging their way in, so I would rather take more time and do things right. I've been fortunate with the chickens and they've never been attacked or taken by a predator. I don't want to get sloppy now that I'm so close to being done with the turkey coop.

I got all the mesh up,

and three sides of the coop, which will be enough for now. I can build the storage area after the turkey's are in.

I am looking forward to doing something else on the weekends, like laundry and grocery shopping.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Give and Take

Several months ago some new people moved in down the street. I saw the guy out working in the yard one morning so I decided to go say hi and take him a little welcome gift. He was digging out all the dead grass so I thought he might like an agave that wouldn't take much care or water.

He seemed a little taken aback that someone was talking to him but I soldiered on and welcomed him to the neighborhood and said I hoped he would like it. He said that he found the neighborhood a little scary. That left me a little taken aback. Even if I could come up with a reason for him to be scared, I couldn't figure out why he would buy a house in a neighborhood that he was scared of. That was the last time I talked to him, not because I was avoiding him or anything. I just never saw him again. He pulls straight into the garage and I haven't seen him in the yard again.

Today, Fedex delivered a package to me that should have gone to that neighbor. His address is 489 and mine is 498. I took the package over and while I was waiting in vain for him to answer the doorbell I noticed the agave I had given him sitting in the dirt next to the door. It looked like it hadn't been watered the whole time since I gave it to him. It was all purple and shriveled.

So I took it back.

Ok I admit it. I don't like that guy, but I sort of feel like this situation is my fault. I should have never given him a plant in the first place. Plants can be a lot of pressure. They have needs. I was misled by the fact that he was out working in the yard. I thought he would like a plant. I was totally projecting. I would like a plant, but that doesn't mean he has to.

It felt a little weird to walk down the street with the little stolen agave but I took comfort in the fact that he clearly hadn't given the plant a second thought. He probably won't even notice that it's gone.

Turkey Coop, 6

My goal yesterday was to get the roof up.

I ended up getting the ridge beam and half the rafters up.

It took me the whole day today to get the rest of the rafters and the sheathing up.

I love how it looks though. The long rafters make it seem kind of luxurious. Like it's a place made to take a moment and rest in the shade.

I was so relieved when I got all the plywood up the hill and onto the coop, but then I had to climb on and screw it all down. My screw gun ran out of juice on the last screw and I decided to call it quits for the day.

It looks like a boat to me. Maybe because it's half submerged into the hill like it's riding a wave.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Bees

I got the new boxes painted just in time. Roberta and I went and did a cutout from a sprinkler box at Lisa Edelstein's house.

She has a beautiful yard overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir. She's had a couple hives set up house in her yard recently. Here's a picture she took from up on her deck while she watched us do the cut out.

The bees were really mellow, even when we were cutting their comb out and attaching it to the frames in the new box. It seemed like we got the queen because the workers were doing a lot of fanning and gradually all of the stray bees marched up into the box to join their sisters. Roberta vacuumed some stragglers out of the sprinkler box but there weren't many bees flying around by the time we were done.

I'm hoping that they stay because they are such nice bees. My first hive seems much more protective of their space. So far they seem to be doing OK next to each other. You can really tell how much more active the first hive is though.

Turkey Coop, 5

The first couple photos here are from last week. I was too exhausted to blog.
I got all of the posts up and put in the bottom plates.

Once the posts were vertical they started to dry out faster. The one in the middle has really warped. It shouldn't mess anything up but it's ugly.

When I started this weekend I trimmed off the posts to the same height and started putting the top plates on. All of the posts have warped a little so I tied them together so they would be the same distance at the top as at the bottom. If it's not square it might cause me problems when I put the roof on but I'll worry about that later.

It started to look like something, a box. A big box.

Everything is costing more than I had planned so I scavenged some scrap wood from work. It's plywood and particle board so I put a couple coats of paint on it to see how long I can keep the moisture out. I figure if I can get a few years use out of these it will be worth it.

Then all I had to do was carry everything up the hill.

I'm a little surprised how much the sun moved in the time it took me to attach the boards. I don't know what is more skewed, my expectation of how much things will cost, or how long things will take. Three weekends ago I joked that my plan looked like a month's worth of weekends to get done. Now I feel like I'll be lucky to finish next weekend. The turkeys and I are eager to have this done.

The turkeys will now have the best view in Party Valley Heights.

I managed to tack up three bays of mesh and then ran out of steam.

That leaves the roof, the coop, the door and the rest of the mesh for next weekend. Yikes.