Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's Moving Day

Get in gear, hurry, hurry, hurry, it's almost moving day. There's so much to be done. The truck will be here on Tuesday and it's driver won't be smiling if we aren't ready

Admit it. You thought I was talking to the bees, didn't you. Nope, I was talking to myself. You do that when you get older. It helps keep your creaking frame you punished when you were young, moving. My Monday and Tuesday were extreme rush days for the weather man had me pressed up against the wall. 

The clock may rule your day but weather rules mine and after months of cool temperatures, summer is throwing her hand in the mix and all of a sudden ninety Fahrenheit temps are knocking at our door. 

That means:
1. Eleven Cornish chickens had to be processed just in case they didn't survive the heat and I got nothing in return for all the feed I put into them.
2. Bess's fence had to be secured for yaks occupation, since she can handle the heat and the yaks aren't suppose to be able to, so they get her shed for a few days. Yes, we've yet to build shade for them.

3.Two goat gates needed to be rebuilt before company arrives on the fourth of July for they will for sure want to go through them and see the goats. I'd rather not impale them in the process.

4. We needed some clean clothes and hence, seven loads of laundry awaited my attention.

5. The drain pipe that broke on Sunday had to be replaced.

6. The lawn and garden needed watering before the high heat arrived.

And there was no way I could do it all myself, especially the drain replacing and gate rebuilding. ( I don't weld and I don't do plumbing.) Kirk agreed to take Tuesday off from work to handle what I couldn't do.

So first thing Monday after livestock chores, I began on the Cornish. Then washed and hung the laundry on the line two loads at a time while the sun was hot and dried them quickly. And finally, come evening, I began working on the hives. 

The first order of business was to shrink the hives down to three boxes, not five. That meant taking the extra boxes off and brushing each boxess's nine frames with a soft bristled brush to remove the bees and deposit them near the hive. The extra boxes full of partially filled cells of honey were then set aside to be moved separately. Three boxes is quite enough weight for our aching backs to lift.

 And as I brushed, the sun shining through the golden yellow wax, I couldn't help but think of stained glass windows. I caught myself smiling, feeling very calm and homey. 

No, not homely, though some may say that too. 
When I had gotten down to the queen excluder on each hive, I stopped and replaced the inner frame and lid. Wondering what a queen excluder is? See, I know what your thinking. Well, some of you anyway. Just because I anticipated that question, I took this picture of one. It excludes the queen but not the workers because the queen is bigger and can't fit through.

 In the spring, a queen typically starts laying in the upper boxes because heat rises and it's warmer up there. Can't really blame her but it does cause some problems. So a month ago in preparation of moving, I began carefully shifting the frames with brood on them down into a lower box, hoping the queen was with them. In one hive she was and in the other she wasn't. I knew because I found brood in one of the upper boxes when I checked a week later.

 Kirk asked me why I didn't just look for the queen. I do know the difference between a queen and a worker and no, she's not the one wearing a crown. She's is wearing the same outfit as the worker bees but she's a bit bigger, longer, and has a  more pointy butt. So you see, she doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd so you have to look very carefully and sometimes for quite some time. This is why when you buy bees, you can often request to have your queen painted with a white spot on her back to allow for quicker identification.

My don't have that.

Kirk might have half the day to look and look through hundreds of milling bees, hundreds not thousands only because the queen is most likely to be somewhere near the brood or eggs but I didn't with spring planting heavy on my mind.

 Me, I'd rather not mess with the frames too much and take the chance of squashing her by accident. Besides, she has been known to go off gallivanting on rare occasions and be where she isn't suppose to be. like on the edge of the box where she likely will be one of those bees that will loose it's life.  Instead, I just moved a few frames and left most of the boxes in tack. I planned to visit again a week later and just peek to see if there was brood where I didn't want it.

Brood is usually laid in the center frames first and with a glance if a frame has sealed brood, you can spot it with out even taking any frames out of a box. As for eggs, they are so tiny, you have to look up close and careful. By a week, I'd be seeing plenty of brood so if it wasn't present, I could feel confident and take out a few frames to check more closely for eggs and I'd be good to go. 

There are three problems with going through a hive too often.
1.You might kill the queen.

2. You are bound to kill bees, though I do use my manners and call out, "Excuse me, coming through. Get out of the way, I'm putting a box on top of that spot." But inevitably, not everyone listens and  a few crunch sounds can always be heard. 

3. Bees seal things together with wax and propilis. (It is a natural nummer and you can suck on it if you have a sore throat to deaden the pain.) If you continue destroying their work, they spend time repairing the damage that could be spent fulfilling duties that leads to a higher yield of honey production.   
I also had to fasten the remaining boxes together so that they didn't shift in transit, releasing the bees all over the countryside. That is what the hive staples are for. You put pound one end into the lower box and the other end into the upper box securing them together. Then I taped the lids on.
 After the sun went down and the temperatures had dropped significantly, when Kirk and I were wishing we were snug in our beds, we went out with head lamp and flashlight to put window screen over the openings. You have to be a bit careful and try not to shine your light directly onto the openings, as the girls think its a burglar or maybe that it is sunrise, I'm not sure which, they are talking, but for either reason, they try to come out. Since we want them to stay in, we have to work quickly. The fine metal screen keeps the bees in and still allows the passage of air.

 Early Tuesday morning we headed out wandering on a two-track road through field of grass where sheep placidly grazed and a couple hawks soared overhead. 

 Their watering hole would now be a tank serviced by a wind mill twirling in the breeze - instead of a dog dish. I couldn't help but envy them, no, not the part about drinking out of a water tank, but the view. Oh how the view spoke to my soul and I ached near to tears wanting to someday be like them. Somewhere where I too could wake up every morning and look out on large expanses of fields. Where man's footprint was light and nature was the  prime decorator.

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