Yesterday was quite a day here at Little Lucey Farm. (disclaimer: We’re not really a working farm. We just like to play at it.)
In the morning the first order of business is to let the dogs out. It looked like we were going to get a beautiful Sunday to work in the yard. I went to the chicken palace and let the birds out and gave them some scratch. We still have two roosters in with the 17 hens and five guineas. The two roosters continue to get along pretty well. Every once in a while there is a little scirmish, but generally they give each other some space. Big Red is clearly the boss rooster, but Duran can hold his own. We have two broody hens: Daisy, who has been in a nest box for at least two week might be ready to give it up soon, and the larger of the two Barred Rocks who has been in a box for about a week. This is a little bit frustrating, because if we had the Maran rooster and hens in the nursery coop like we wanted, then we could give those eggs to one of the broody hens to raise. The ducks had another idea. Maybe in a couple more weeks we can start the process of raising some pure marans birds.
I opened the original coop to let out those 14 hens and Freddie. These are our four year old birds and the one we handled the most and therefore the most friendly. Tilda and Gertie and Gladys are particularly nice hens. These girls are still laying very well. We’re not sure how long they will keep it up, but so far they are doing great.
We had three yards of mulch delivered a couple of days ago and yesterday we continued to weed and clear out some areas so we could spread the mulch. We are having a party next Saturday, so we were working around the deck. We mulched around the new barrel planters and planted some hens and chicks along the cinder block border that leads to the bees. I was also preparing the garden in order to plant the asparagus that we bought. I never got the tiller running this year, so I was doing all the digging by hand. We were just about finished with the mulching in that area when Joni yelled for me to look at the bees. They had just started to swarm!
I had my phone which was miraculously charged and was able to get some video. We had never seen the swarming process from start to finish. It only took about 15 minutes, but it was pretty cool to watch. They came out of the hive and swirled up and out in front of the hive and formed a large ‘cloud’ of bees. I got some video from several vantage points. It was spectacular. I suppose their landing spot was never in doubt, but I was watching so I would know where they gathered. Naturally, it was the ‘regular’ spot. It was the same small tree and wild raspberry tangle that all five swarms from last year had used. I really should sell little cuttings or seedling of my magic bee-magnet tree. It clearly has magical powers.
I took seven videos. The second one is shown, but you can watch them all if you are interested. They are only a minute or two each:
I let them settle for about a half hour and when I went back to the hives, it looked like business as usual. If I hadn’t seen the swarm, I might have never even noticed. The swarm was very quiet. The bees were still settling down and it didn’t look like the scouts were out in large numbers yet. It was also hidden pretty well in the shrubbery. I had to cut away a lot of the brambles to expose the swarm, but once I did that, it looked like it would be an easy operation. With Joni’s help, we cut the branch from the tree and carried it over to the empty hive box already set up and ready for bees. One shake was all it took, and the bees were in the box – and all over the outside as well. I didn’t want to use smoke to get them to retreat into the box because the bees need to spread the queen’s scent to pull the bees in. I was pretty sure the queen was in the box, so I tried to brush the bees away from the top and was able to get an inner cover on the box. In short order, it was clear that bees were heading in through the front entrance, so the job was almost done.
Last year, I think I had a newly installed swarm reswarm after a few weeks, so this time I wanted to be sure the bees had plenty of space. I decided to put a second deep on right away. Another difference from last year is that these boxes already had frames with comb and perhaps even some old honey or almost honey that went through the winter. There is some risk that there could be some wax moths in these frames, so I will keep a close eye out for them. In the meantime, I will take some other frames and put them in the freezer to kill any wax moths that might be hiding. I still have five or six deep frames from my hive #2 that went through the winter with capped honey in them. I thing the best course of action is to try to feed these back to the bees, so I will try a couple of different things toward this end. Today I will simply scratch open one frame of capped honey onto a cookie sheet to see if the bees will go after that. I suspect they will, but if not maybe either the honey is ‘bad’ in some way or maybe they are still foraging (and preferring) the nectar they are finding in the neighborhood.
Dee Dee hatched 10 of her 13 eggs two weeks ago and we felt the need to move them to the nursery coop for protection against snakes. So, unfortunately, the nursery coop is being occupied for another couple of weeks. They have really grown and are very cute. Dee Dee is very protective and generally won’t let us near her babies, but yesterday we wanted to see if they would come out of the coop and take their first swim. We filled a tub with water and with a little help all but one made it into the water. Momma let the way. Normally, duck would like to be swimming a lot, certainly a portion of every day, but Dee Dee has been sitting on her nest for a month and now taking care of little ones with not swimming available – until yesterday. It was clear that she was enjoying the bath.
There was a sad moment in the day, too. We knew that a pair of bluebirds had made a nest in a nest box that has been in the yard for several years. We have watched one or two sets of eggs hatch from that box each year. I had seen eggs in the box a few weeks ago and I thought we would take a look to see if the babies had hatched. When we looked in the box we found three tiny dead baby bluebirds. They looked to me to be less than a week old. There was no sign of mommy or daddy bird. Bluebirds are capable of raising young even if one parent dies. Either parent can do the job. This is especially sad and perplexing. Something must have happened to both parents. And two of the eggs or babies were missing as well. We have a snake guard on the pole, so we don’t think it was a snake, but we just don’t know what happened.
We bought a new tractor, it came yesterday, and it’s called the Raven. It is a hybrid. It cost a little more than a standard garden tractor, but it’s cool. It’s also a new product which is a risk. Let’s go over the pros and cons.
- hybrid – uses less gas, fewer emissions, more efficient
- comfortable and spacious
- drives like a car – accellerator and brake, variable speed
- ATV mode goes 17 mph
- small cargo area in back
- easy to remove mowing deck and blades
- no belts
- large front tires
- more expensive than garden tractor
- only 46 – inch cut
- new product, unproven
The last ‘con’ is a big one. Doing some research on the internet revealed some problems with the initial release (only about one month ago). For instance there was a cheap seat detection switch that had given some owners a problem. To their credit, the company, Denver Global Products (DGP), came up with a better switch and better mounting to eliminate that problem. My Raven, only a month later already has this modification installed.
It is a week into April and it is ‘yellow’ season. We have daffodils and early tulips up, and the forsythia is fully in bloom. Our little magnolia tree looks better than it has in several years. The boxwoods are in bloom, but the blossom is small and green and hard to notice. I only notice it because on a warm midday my honeybees really seem to like it.
Wildflowers come and go sometimes so quickly that I don’t get a chance to document what is going on. I am trying to record what the bees are visiting and when. This may be an unusual (early) year because of the warm and short winter, and that affected the spring plants greatly, but I suspect that the summer plants are mostly on schedule. Things in bloom now that the bees like include clover, wild mint, broccoli, squash, and hibiscus.
When we moved to our property – before we were calling it the farm – we were impressed with the landscaping. It needed some TLC, but throughout our first year, it became clear that there were lots of flowering plants with almost continuous blooming from early spring through fall. I always look forward to the progression from crocuses to dafodils to tulips to irises to day lillies and so on. We have added a few things and Mother Nature throws in her splash of color as well.
Last week I decided to walk around and take a few pictures of some of the late June color. Here is what I found.
I am always interested in what my honeybees are finding to forage on the property. They can fly three or so miles to find food, but the more I can offer them in my yard, the better. I haven’t planted a field of wildflowers yet, so the bees only have access to the native wildflowers and weeds. This June there has been a lot of clover in the grass and tons of Crown Vetch. I have seen the bees on both, but not much, so they must still be finding sources elsewhere.
We had been thinking of adding some type of covered area to the deck for some time and we both liked this gazebo that we found at Lowe’s We get some pretty strong winds out here and we liked the more open design of this one that allows the winds to blow through more. We didn’t want a more solid wall structure that the wind might just blow over or lift up and destroy. This one has a light canvas top that is easily removed in a few minutes time if it looks like we are in for a really nasty storm. We have been eating more meals outside and it gives us great protection from the mid-day sun. It’s also nice and cozy to sit out there at night with a few lighted candles.
Despite being hot and dry, there are still things flowering and providing color around the property. I thought I would create a short slideshow of images to document the beauty. I will have to find out what my honeybees like so they will have some more choices during the hot summer months.
The tiger lilies have started to bloom. I know daylily connoisseurs don’t care much for them, but I love them because they take me back to my childhood
summers on the farm where we had a huge patch of them behind the house. They always bloom about the time that the preying mantis hatchlings are everywhere and I remember spending so much time observing the little guys when I was a kid. That big bed full of tiger lilies was just covered with what seemed like 1,000’s of mantis babies. So tiger lilies = mantis babies = summer = kid on a farm – priceless.
I love this time of year when everything is so lush and green, well it was up until the heatwave the last few days anyway. The landscape is still looking pretty good for the most part. Pictures like this are great because you don’t really notice all the weeds mixed in.