Friday, February 26, 2010

My storage building is up, up, and away!

For some of you, you know I've been talking about putting a storage building behind the house for quite awhile. My garage is so jam-packed with stuff, well, I just need more space. I am one of those people that will get something and say, "you know, I might need that sometime" -- and hang on to it. Now I find myself tight on space..and two things must happen; I need a place to store my beekeeping equipment and other things like lawnmowers and lawn equipment..and I'm having one heck of a yard sale this spring. This building will be very convenient since it is mere yards from my bees, so I can keep all of my equipment there.

We have an excellent contractor of storage buildings here in my city. About a month ago, he came over and gave me an estimate which was a really great deal. He told me he could jump on the work now because its winter and business is slow, and while we had it scheduled for a month ago, the winter weather of snow and ice kept setting the start date back. But to my surprise and delight, the work started on Thursday, February 25th, and they're going really fast to have it finished next week. So I thought I would share some of the progress they've made over two days.

They started the building (which is 12x20) at around 11 o'clock on Thursday morning. Here you see the contractor, John Brown, and two of his guys and they dig the footings for the building. What you can't tell in the picture is that the wind was blowing hard..gusts up to 40mph. But after they dug the footings and leveled everything out, they started on the floor.  

This is how it looked by 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon. As you can see, the floor is finished. The guys stopped for the day since the wind was blowing like crazy and the temperature was only 41 degrees. Its days like this that I appreciate my office job and not having to stay outside to make my living. But when summer rolls around, I'll wish I could get outside and curse being inside all the time.

Here it is at 10 o'clock on Friday morning, a little less that 24-hours from the start. Even though the wind was just as bad as Thursday, the guys worked hard to make this much progress. Three of the walls are up now, and it looks like the roof may be on before the end of the day. Once they get the last wall and roof on, then they can put the double doors, windows, and a good paint job on it.

Here's what the inside looks like as of now. I don't have plans to finish the interior walls, after all, its a storage building. But I do plan to have it outfitted for electricity so I can put a heater in it when I'm working in there in winter. And who knows, I may have to put an air conditioner in there so I can cool off on the days I work my hives! And it will have a wireless burglar alarm sensor on it which will work with my home system in case anyone breaks in while I'm asleep or away from home.

More updates later as the progress continues!    

Friday, February 19, 2010

Always make sure you brush after sugary snacks...

So we're finally seeing the sun and some decent temperatures here in the Piedmont Triad. This entire week we've been snow-free, thank goodness, although it looks like we could have a chance of some snow next week. But as of right this moment, the temperature is 51 degrees, and the sun is shining bright. I'll most definitely take it! More please!

I noticed that my girls were all in front of the hive and enjoying the sun. They've been cooped up for months in the brood chambers..just waiting for spring to come so they can once again become a bustling colony. And I'm anxious to get back to working my hive, and if they can make it for another month, I'll split this one off as soon as the numbers are good. 

When I checked under the hood (like a good mechanic does) -- one thing I noticed is that the sugar syrup I put there weeks ago wasn't touched. They took some of it initially, but then as the weather turned cold again, they stopped. Afraid that they may cluster and starve because their stores are too far away, I decided to try the sugar feeding on the top of the frames. I can see where they've made their way up to the top chamber, so they're close enough to take the cane sugar just at the tops of the bars.

I read that newspapers can turn into a mess if you use the sugar feeding method, and that's the last thing I want -- an even more gummy hive. But then I read that wax paper is ideal for this method; it is easily removed when the feeding is over, it won't stain the frames with ink, and it won't get really soggy like newspaper from the humidity in the hive. Plus the bees can chew through it and clean it out when they need to.

So with wax paper, sugar, and a spray bottle of warm water in hand, I went out and set up the sugar method. I put down a sheet of wax paper, then a thin layer of sugar..and then I sprayed the sugar with warm water. Then another thin layer of sugar and a spritz of warm water. Then I repeated the process again for a third time. And for good measure, I decided to add a strip of Mega-Bee to the side in case they wanted it.

Well as you can see, some of the girls couldn't wait to get up there and see what it was all about. This picture doesn't really do this justice since the sugar had bees all over it..I just didn't snap the picture in time. So between this method of feeding and the light gray pollen they were bringing in while I was out there, I think they'll do just fine for now. By the way, the top chamber was full of bees that's under the paper and sugar, so maybe these girls in the picture took some of the goodies down and shared with the rest.

By the way, just a curiosity -- but click on the picture above, the one of the bees on the front of the hive. Take a good look at the bee on the landing board -- the one closest to the bottom of the picture. See her? She's thin and all by herself. You know, if I didn't know better, I would swear that she's a queen. She's not as wide as the rest and she seems to be thinner and longer. While I haven't seen my marked queen since last October, mainly because I left them alone when cold weather started to set it, I'm just wondering if this could be a new queen. I suppose the possibility exists that there could be a brand new queen in the midst of this colony. I'm just going into my second season of beekeeping so I'm a little unsure if this could be happening.

I'm open for ideas here. So give me your thoughts. What do you think?

I'll bee anxious to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lesson learned: Don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong...

I've always been told that you never stick your nose where it doesn't belong. It is true and a neighborhood dog learned that lesson the hard way.

My city has a leash law. City law says that you're supposed to have your dogs under control at all times, and that means having them on a leash or in a fence on your own property. And while most of my neighbors do a really good job in following the law, someone around here has been allowing their pooch to run loose, even running around and through my yard. But the wayward canine learned a lesson the hard way at the expense of one of my bees.

The other morning, this mixed-breed mutt came loping into the yard -- first the front and then the back. From the kitchen window, you can easily see my bee hive at the back of the yard. And take a guess where the dog decided to go? You guessed it, it went straight for the bee hive.

The dog, being a little nosey, stuck his snoot right into the reduced entrance of the hive. It didn't take but a few seconds later...but all of a sudden the dog jumped back, ran a few feet in the opposite direction, then put his head on the ground face first and wallowed around. Then he jumped up and bolted out of my yard like he had been shot out of the cannon...and disappeared. I haven't seen him since. Obviously he was amused by the white boxes on the black metal stand. My bees however were not amused by his investigative nature and let him know really fast. 

All of my friends got a big kick out of the story. I do feel sorry for the dog and I hope he's okay. But I do have to admit that its a little funny.

And the moral of this very true story? Never stick your nose where it doesn't belong. And that includes a bee hive!   

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The clean-up begins after the ice storm...

I feel so much more fortunate than the folks in the northeastern United States who are digging out from under the massive amounts of snow they've received for the last couple of days. While I can empathize, we still have our problems here in my area of North Carolina.

Around 20,000 people in my area are without power, and my own power has gone out twice already this morning. Its all because of a steady rain for two days straight, mixed in with some sleet and spitting snow flurries. Of course, with the ice accumulations comes downed trees and powers lines. Police, EMS, highway crews and power officials are running emergency calls everywhere -- prioritizing the calls by importance. 

The ground here is saturated because of two big snow storms, a rain storm with flooding, and now an ice storm. The wind just has to blow a little bit and down come the trees. And then the ice makes the trees brittle and the ones that don't fall just snap. Same thing with utility poles. They're snapping like twigs. 

Here's some of what I found this morning near my house.

I just happened to ride up on this while running errands. This pole was lying across a very busy residential street near the citys high school, Elk's Lodge and a swim club. An elderly man had his vehicle parked to keep people from running through the power lines in the street. He told me he had been blocking traffic for 30-minutes and no one had showed up to take care of it.

Same pole, different angle. By the time I got home to get my camera and return, city crews had blocked the street with cones. While I was talking to the elderly man blocking the street, he told me that all the utility poles on the street were cracked, but they were still standing for some reason. Whether he knew what he was talking about, I don't know.    

I'm surprised that more of these pine trees didn't fall. This is the entrance to one of the city's more popular summer attractions, the Reidsville Swim Club, and as you can see these trees blocked up the entrance. There may have been more below them, I just didn't want to walk down there to see. The club is directly across the street from the Elk's Lodge where the utility pole snapped in half.

A little closer shot with a better view of the trees at the Swim Club. The county Sheriff, who is a good friend and former co-worker, told me that between 1 o'clock and 5 o'clock on Friday afternoon, they had over 100 trees down across the area, many of them across highways and power lines. That didn't even include what was happening in the cities and towns. And there's no telling how many more there's been since in the last 24-hours, It looks like the clean-up could take weeks instead of days.

So there you have it. That's just a taste of the ice storm that followed on the heels of all the snow and rain we've had here lately. I'm trying to stay positive about all this precipitation and hope that it will make the plant life stronger in the spring and summer. But I have to admit that it is trying my patience. 

Bring on the spring!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The third winter storm looms. I am sick of snow!

Yes, friends, I am sick of snow. No, make it that I'm sick of winter.

This has been the craziest winter I can remember in a long time. Usually the winters here are so mild that people can sometimes walk around in shorts, and that doesn't even include the college kids in flip-flops year-round. But oh no, not this winter. No, this winter has to make up for all of the other mild winters we've had in the past. And with it came frigid temperatures along with the craziest snow and ice storms in memory. As I sit here, the third major snow and ice event looms on the horizon. With it supposedly comes anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of snow, but it looks like a generous amount of sleet and heavy ice may join in. No doubt its going to be a winter weather mess.

In mid December we had 8 inches of snow here. Then the first week of January we had frigid temperatures in the teens. Then a couple of weeks ago we had torrential rains complete with flooding all around my area. Then this past weekend, beginning on Friday the 29th of January, we got another 9 inches of snow and temperatures back down in the teens. And now we're facing our third major frozen weather event this winter. I just saw on the news that the power companies are on high alert now since the ground is already saturated from all the previous wet weather, and if ice comes, that means that trees can topple over and take down power lines.

So anyway, I made pictures of the snow event last weekend but just didn't have time to post them. Frankly they depress me. But I figured since I made them I would share them with you and you can see our very own version of a winter wonderland. 

By the way, have I mentioned that I am sick of winter?

On a side note, my bees are doing fine. I checked them again a couple times this week, just an outside the hive inspection, and on the warmer and sunny days they're out and about flying around. But like me I'm sure they're sick of all this snowy, wet weather. For them I hope we have a warm and dry spring filled with blossoms and blooms. They'll probably be glad to get back into a routine and do what comes natural.

Check out my pictures and click on them for a larger view.

Here's the night view of the snow falling on Friday night. It was a mixture of all sizes of snow, but it was falling so fast, it made streaks in the photograph. I have to admit it was beautiful.

Here's the street in front of my house on Saturday morning, the snow untouched by vehicles. It was late that afternoon before plows came by and barely made a dent in the snow.

Here's my house. In case you can't tell, that's a Nissan Xterra buried under all that snow.

As you can see, the snow is deep in the back yard. The snow depth at the base of my hive was 9 inches, just almost reaching the top of the hive stand on the side. And of course it completely covered the entrance.

A little better look at the snow amount at the hive. You can get an idea of the depth of the snow from the side view. I cleaned off the snow from the entrance and the top so the girls could get out once the temperatures warmed up some.

The creek behind my house which is just below my bee hive. This is their primary water source. It is amazing that with all this water just a few yards from them, at one point this past summer, they decided to get water from the rain spouts behind my house. Go figure. Bees can be remarkable, but odd too.

This is a wooded area across from my house. What you can't tell is that it is an old cemetary. Some of the graves here date back to the 1850s. There are two really nice homes on the side of this plot, at one time they belonged to one of my city's wealthiest families. Maybe one of these days I'll have bee hives there too if my neighbor (who owns it) doesn't mind. Who knows..maybe my bees could keep the residents of this property company?

So there you have it. More evidence of the crazy weather of the winter of 2009-2010 here in my neck of the woods. While all of this craziness is going on, I'm getting everything prepared for the weather to break and to get my bees going for another year exciting year. Hopefully sooner than later. Real soon. Like now would be fine with me.

Stay well and bee vigilant!