Honeybees and Return of Cold Weather

Here it is the end of April, one week cold & wet, next week hot and short sleeves. Imagine if you can how this can mess with nature. Our hive that came in wild last summer has thrived well through the winter and as soon as the dandelions bloomed, they had their first swarm.

It was quite a large swarm and didn’t hang around very long. We wouldn’t have been able to catch it due to the landing in a large tree.

This week we had a 70-degree day, dandelions were blooming again, and we had another swarm. Apparently, the queen came out a little too soon and wasn’t able to fly well enough to swarm off and her swarm landed on the new hay tedder in front of the hive.

Unexpected swarm loves the new farm equipment. The brown spot on the ground is thousands of honeybees.
Mr. Caldwell suited up and put the swarm box in front of the bees. First, he set a flat piece of board in the grass in front of the bees and had the swarm box sitting at one end of the board.
From here you can tell the swarm trap was not near large enough to house all those bees. The hole to enter the hive was about the size of a nickle and Eddie decided to do something different.
Knowing the swarm trap wasn’t going to work he got busy cleaning up an old hive and placing new comb inside for them to have the amount of room they desperately needed.
He picked up the swarm trap and held it over the open hive body and tapped it hard into the hive. All of the bees on the front of the trap dropped as a group into the hive. He then placed the hive body on the edge of the board along with a thin strip for the bees to use as a step into the hive and not go under the hive.
Those bees started marching into that hive as quickly as they could. It took almost two hours. The strips on top of the hive were used to stop the honeybees from going under the hive box. Wednesday was a very busy day, and we now have a new hive that seems to be staying in their new home.

On Saturday we had a repeat of Wednesday but this time something went very wrong. The bees swarmed and apparently something happened to this new queen. The swarmed landed about six feet from the last but was widely scattered in the grass. They seemed lost and not able to find the queen. We watched for about an hour and the workers all went back in the hive. Eddie said that being a young queen her wings might not have been developed well enough to fly any distance or the queen left in the older hive sometimes will kill the new queen to keep her workers with her. I can believe this may have happened since the hive had just swarmed two days before.

This was a good thing because we are out of hives. The rainy weather and the cooler temps we hope will prevent another swarm. It’s crazy that they raised another queen so fast, and Eddie is thinking there may be more queen’s ready to hatch. We will see!!!

This is where he smoked the bees out of the grass onto the board with the hive on Wednesday.

Cooler weather coming this week so stay warm and stay busy!!!

Barnevelder Chicks for 2023

The Barnevelder is a Dutch breed of domestic chicken. This is the first year I’ve raised this breed and they are supposed to lay dark chocolate brown, large eggs. However, the more eggs a chicken produces, the lighter colors they’ll be. Most hens weigh 5 to 6 pounds while roosters weigh between 7 and 8 pounds. So, they’re a little bit larger than the average chicken. They grow into gorgeous chickens. They prefer cold weather over hot and humid months, and they’ll get that on our farm. 

Full grown Barnevelder hen.
Full grown Barnevelder roo.
Now they look like little buzzards!!! 🙂 They’re not the cutest chicks I’ve ever raised!!

The chicks are in an aluminum bathtub on our screened in back porch and their bedding needs to be changed daily. Their water and feed are replaced twice a day and man can they eat!! The worse part of raising babies is the down that comes off as they are growing their feathers. The down dust (baby fuzz) is EVERYWHERE!! Today and maybe tomorrow they will graduate to the large brooder coop outside.

This is the brooder coop, well ventilated, large one end is heated, and the other end is for their feed and water.
The end with the bedding covers the open wire and gives them some shelter from the air moving under the coop. Both ends have a heat lamp in the ceiling for their warmth. The front of that end has a large board to keep them from the wind and to keep their bedding from blowing out. The other end the wire is exposed front and bottom for excellent ventilation. They will live in this brooder through May, June and July and will be moved into the older henhouse.
The “Chicken Big House” is a cinder block building. I take good care of my chickens.

One more thing, since we are still having cold temps in the mornings, below freezing, I will keep a tarp to cover the front of the brooder house after the sun goes down and take it often as soon as it warms up each morning. They will get the morning sun to help that as well.

Hope to have a couple more breeds to join the group by the end of June. Always plenty to do around here.

Greenhouse Opened and Ready to Grow

I love growing things!!!

My greenhouse prior to changes we made this spring.

Eddie and I were very busy making changes in March to my greenhouse. One roof panel came loose during the winter under the shade cloth. One vent window kept coming apart. The small solar exhaust fan in the front peak was too small to do the job of taking the heat out last summer. We were trying to think of new ways to keep it cool because so many times the midday heat rose to over 90 degrees. I didn’t lose anything but was constantly watering and blasting the heat out with a commercial fan that my son-in-law loaned me, and it was a huge challenge, but things still grew for me.

We replaced the roof panel, repaired the vent window, removed the solar fan and did some rearranging of the tables to help with saving the seedlings and plants. I bought an oscillating fan to place in the back of the greenhouse to move the air around and push it to the front of the greenhouse. The back of the greenhouse receives the hottest of the air from the western sun every day that it’s not cloudy.

I bought an exhaust fan to replace the solar fan that is three times the size of the old one.

This fan has a timer with an auto cycle On/OFF at your desired temperature and humidity level and 24hour timer. I have it set at 75* and it’s already working like a charm.

Our son came by last Saturday and set up the timer which was actually very simple, and we could have done it, but he knows electronics and we thought “Better safe than sorry”!!

The next thing we did at his urging was we cut a panel on the northside of the greenhouse, close to the ground and put a screen in it. We saved the cut panel and clip it back on the wall in late afternoon when evening air cools and take it off in the mornings when it warms up.

We’ve been using our chick heat lamps since I opened the greenhouse to keep it warm at night and help the seedlings to grow. It worked great until this weekend when the cold dropped to freezing again and Eddie put a small propane heater in the greenhouse Saturday, yesterday and we’ll probably use it a few more nights as long as the cold is here. The lamps work great but when the air is cold outside, and wind is blowing they’re just not enough.

I have an industrial surge protector attached to the frame of the roof to plug in the lamps. I’ve attached some plastic-coated wire to the lamp hardware so that I can easily adjust the height of the lamps from the plants.
My workstation is at the back of the greenhouse this year and so is the water barrel.

The herbs are planted, and I also planted some flowers last week. They are balsam, geranium, Bells of Ireland, dusty miller, blanket flower, delphinium, gaillardia, money plant, marigold, zinnia, moonflower (every year), Hosta, cleome, calendula, black-eyed Susan and balloon flower.

The first thing I started were the few vegetables that I will need to can this summer. Mr. Stripey tomatoes, Heavyweight and Super Shepherd sweet peppers, banana peppers, San Marazano tomatoes, romaine lettuce, Stonehead, Flat Dutch and Red Empress cabbages, and carrots. I’ve never been able to get carrots to grow in the garden because the soil is too heavy (I think) so this year I sowed some in a large black plastic cauldron in the greenhouse just see if I can get one. The potatoes and onions will be planted as soon as the weather gets to “normal”!! After that we’ll plant directly into the garden to include corn, green beans, yellow crookneck and Delicata squash, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, cantaloupe and watermelon. I haven’t decided where to plant the sunflowers yet if I plant any. The chickens sure do love them.

The beginning!!
Garden plowed and waiting to be tilled and planted.
It’s wonderful having the garden so close to the greenhouse.


Hibiscus Bed Terminated-Herb Garden Begins

I dug up all of the hibiscus that overtaken the flower bed on the outside of the yard. I’ve sprayed all of the weeds while they were peeping through the ground and now, I need to till it up and add some really good compost and maybe some Miracle Gro potting soil. It’s a large bed and I have to keep chicken wire around it because the chickens seem to love everything in it.

The flower bed on the outside of the yard got cleaned up and will be worked up for a new herb garden. I’m going to try my luck at raising them and drying them in the fall.

I’ve opened the greenhouse and have planted several herbs to start in this bed. I had three herbs in one section last summer just to see how they would do, and they lived through the winter. The herbs I have started in the greenhouse are oregano, summer savory, thyme, marjoram, sage, Italian parsley, Italian basil, dill, lemon balm, tarragon, lemon basil, lavender, cinnamon basil, lemon savory, rosemary and fennel. The basils, oregano, dill and rosemary have already come up and been transplanted. The cinnamon basil smells heavenly and is barely an inch tall and I can’t wait for it to mature!!! I also planted in large pots some cilantro, lemon basil and chives.

The bottom two trays are full of all of the herbs I planted but for three large pots of bigger herbs.

If all goes as planned, I will dry herbs this fall and give gifts of dried herbs to family and friends for gifts along with a chart of how to use them in cooking. I’m very excited about this project.

They’re Back . . .

He showed up on the fifteenth like clockworks. He’s sitting on a maple tree limb beside the front porch.

April 15th and our first hummer of the year has arrived. He found the feeder that I put out on the first and the next day another one showed up. We now have a male and female. I put the feeder out on the first because last year they showed up early and I wasn’t prepared. I checked their syrup yesterday afternoon to make sure it was still good, and I didn’t have to make another batch.

They’re always a bit flighty when they first show up and it was hard to get a good photo.

When the Hostas Come Up. . .

In one week, they went from buds sticking out of the ground to this.

So does the wild asparagus.

This stuff is like gold on our dinner table. Thanks to the birds, we have a large crop on the west side of our garden.

This is also the time that merkels/morels are found in the forest. Eddie was lucky enough to find a small patch of them (enough for one meal) before they dried up. Boy, was it a great meal!

Honeybee Swarm Traps

Honey Bee Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

The last three years we have lost our honeybees in the spring when the weather was warm for a couple weeks and then became below freezing shortly after. The bees all died in the hive but away from their honey source. There are lots of reasons this can happen but that’s for the experts to say, not me. This post will be about what I have learned.

Our hive of 2022 came from a wild swarm that occurred after the weather warmed. They have so far survived and actually swarmed yesterday which was a total surprise.

Our son lost his hive this spring just like we did the past three years. He has become a real bee/honey enthusiast. After some research, rather than buy new bees which are very expensive (colony of honeybees is normally sold by farmers for well over $125) he decided to make some honeybee swarm traps for himself and for us.

Swarm traps made by our son for himself and for our farm.

Honeybee colonies that have had swarming taking place are left with a greatly reduced population of honeybees. Usually, the swarm leaves with 60-70% of the adult bees in the parent colony. Since we personally had a swarm yesterday, I am concerned that this reduction of the colony and the crazy weather may cause the loss of our hive even now.

It was quite a large swarm and didn’t hang around very long.

We had two swarm traps hung but I don’t think they would have held this swarm and the traps may be hung to low. The swarm trap should be up a month before the swarm season when dandelion begins blooming. Our yard around the hives is full of dandelions and the honeybees are all over them and the location of the trap should be around 100 yards away from the hives. The swarm trap should be placed 10 feet off of the ground, according to the research I did after we lost the swarm. The swarm trap should face away from winds and towards the north so it can get enough sunlight in the morning.

The tree they swarmed to was well above 10 feet and over the bee house. They may have been there 30 minutes before they left to their new home. I missed the departure!!!

We will be moving the traps we now have up and adding more lemongrass oil. To use lemongrass oil, soak a cotton swab in it and dab the entryway with it. Then leave the cotton swab inside the trap. I just put a few drops at the entryway of the trap initially but know better now.

This box was about 15 yards from the bee house and only six feet off the ground. We put it there because in the past swarms have left the hives and went in the top of the tree.
This box is at the end of the bee house on our fencing shed and only five feet off the ground and does not get the morning sun.
The front of the hive was busy but not nearly as many bees on the front of the hive.

When we finally catch a swarm, the first thing we need to make sure that the swarm doesn’t leave and let them settle. If we start inspecting them as soon as we catch them or try to move their location immediately, they will try to leave.
We need to make them feel at home, as though it was their idea to choose this trap. Once all of the scout bees come back and the swarm is nicely contained, then carefully and gently move it to a hive we have ready and install the bees in their new home.

Early Morning On the Farm

It’s raining now and very dreary, we’re trying to put up new fence between showers and before thunder storms this afternoon.

My daughter left early this morning before the rain clouds moved in and sent me these beautiful scenes of the farm.

This was the view from her house of our side of the farm and I think it should be a wall painting!!!

God’s majesty in full color!!
We are so blessed!!
Our daughter is an awesome photographer and she gave me permission to use these in my blog today. Hope you enjoy them as much as I am!!

I’m so glad she was up and on the go this morning and able to get the beauty of the farm surrounding us.

Garden Plowed

Spring has sprung with very cool temperatures in the morning and 60’s to high 70’s in the afternoon. We’ve had frost every morning since Wednesday a week ago. All mornings in the low 20’s and some low 30’s.

Plowed and ready for the rototiller.

The ground was wet and dark, but the wind has dried everything out. The rototiller will grind and soften the chunks into workable soil. We have our seed potatoes and the onion sets which are always the first thing we plant. We plan to put them in the garden next week, weather permitting.

The Yard Cleanup

Unless it snows, winter can be very ugly! Then spring starts sprouting, and I get to work trying to make it lovely again!! The entire yard is cleaned up and here’s a few shots of the final cleanup.

The rose garden and northeast yard are full of leaves, maple tree limbs, and all of Sadie’s bones that she chewed on all winter fill the space.

I’ve trimmed the fall growth from the roses and the frozen tips. I’ve had two new roses to add to the garden and last fall I reseeded some of the perennials in that flower garden. I’m going to pull up a lot of the flat rock to use as borders somewhere else.

I worked one entire day and got all of the debris out of the yard and cleaned up. I was plum tuckered at the end of the day.

One of two roses have been planted. It looks like its blooming but that’s some red leaves and the label to remind me which one it is.
The second rose is a climber and red, it’s name is Don Juan. The other rose is a garden rose called Queen Elizabeth and is pink and white.
I also have lupine in that bed and it’s looking good but after frost the last two nights it may not look that good by the end of the day.
I moved the primrose from the bell garden to the rose garden for more sun. Maybe they’ll bloom better in this spot.
Leaves and debris are all gone. The Hostas in front of the porch are free of small limbs and leaves.
The hostas are starting to come up and I left some of the wood bark that has been swept from the firewood on the porch. Thought it might be a little more nutrition for them.
The flower bed on the outside of the yard got cleaned up and will be worked up for a new herb garden. I’m going to try my luck at raising them and drying them in the fall. The bed was full of hibiscus which will go to my daughter and went to New Kent County with hubby’s family that just camped out on the farm.
The peony and daylily on the outside got a good cleaning out. I just have one problem with them, they are full of grass and I don’t know how to kill it without killing the flowers. I’ll wait and see if they’re strong enough this year to kill out the grass.

Now on to the main yard bed and the bed around the gazebo!! Things are starting to look really good.

Family Visit

My husband’s cousin and her family came for a visit/camping trip on Sunday before Easter and stayed the week. They camped out on the farm that she inherits from her father, Stuart Tompkins and grandmother, Peggy Ann Caldwell Tompkins. Dana and Kenny, her husband hope to move here in the near future!!! We’re excited and can’t wait to have three beautiful little girls across the road from us!! Vada, Jillian and Jolene are just precious and love the farm! They worked most of the time they were here trying to make it easier to camp in the future and while building their new home.

They camped out in a tent on their farm and had adventures all over the farm, hiked to the Cascade Falls in Giles County, fished in the ponds on the farm, hiked Little Mountain in front of our farm and generally had a blast!!

It was pretty cold during the visit in the mornings but they love camping.
They bought their three dogs with them. I don’t have a photo of the foxhound.
We’re all animal lovers.
This is the family home they’re inheriting.
Vada is the oldest and the twins are a couple years younger.
Trip to the Cascades.
This is the front view of the family home and where they camped.
The largest chicken house on the farm.
The smaller of the chicken houses.
Lots of hiking
Fishing with Dad
Riding on the farm and in the mountains.

They can’t get back here soon enough for me.

Tricycle Planter

I had a planter for several years that looked like a tricycle with a box behind the seat. The box was made of a very 1/4-inch thin plywood. The last three years I had succulents in the box that did quite well until the bottom fell out of the box last fall. The box was made of wood which was very thin but everything I planted in it grew well. I started to send it to the landfill but didn’t for some reason.

This is the 2020 version of the planter filled with hens & chicks.

Well, my wonderful hubby thought he might be able to salvage the rotted mess and make it sturdier and he did just that!

I think it’s so cute and so much more sturdy!
The bottom of the box now has drainage holes. He also replaced the pedals on it.
I started to paint the seat but thought the aged look was better.

I think this year it will have red geraniums in the flower box!!

Added A Burgundy, Added a White & Lavender

I love plants of all kinds but especially houseplants in the wintertime. Our house doesn’t let a lot of light in. We have windows everywhere but overhang from the roof and maple trees surrounding three sides is limiting. I have one room over our living room that faces the south and is warm in the winter allows for a few. My favorite are African violets and mine bloom just about all year.

At the moment, these have just dropped their bloom. The blooms are different shades of purple and dark pink.

But, I just added these little beauties to the group.

Pale lavender and white came home with me last week.
This one has a different shade of pink.

The other houseplants are doing well, and I’ve received slips from friends and started a bunch of new ones that aren’t African violet.

Mother-in-law tongue
Prayer plant
Orchid cactus, I think.
Lots of cactus that bloom red, pink, magenta, pink & white, white and red.
Just started spider plant.
Mystery plant, it will get much larger and bloom and have marble size red berries, I call her Betty after the friend that gave me some of the berries. I have several of these started.
Burgundy shamrock that I just got from my hairdresser and it’s blooming. I love shamrocks. Green one next.
This is the newest that I got with the new African violets. So unusual and it’s called Snow-white Waffle plant.
CANNOT remember the name but I have two and they get really big and colorful. I got them from my mother-in-law several years ago. This is a start from the original.

House Spring Cleaning Has Begun

I worked from 9:30 to 4:30 spring cleaning our bedroom. The curtains came down, all bed linens on bed laundered, area rug out on the porch waiting on the pressure washer and went to work on the walls and light fixtures. I figured by that night I wouldn’t be able to move but it went well, and I survived. The results:

Clean walls
Scrubbed floors! Furniture was moved from one side of room to the other to mop and wax with time delay for drying to move from one side to the other. Mattress vacuumed before the floors!
Amongst the turmoil the light fixture was cleaned, and the windows washed. Pictures and decor taken down and cleaned.
The end results. . . .
. . . I can stand it now!!! The curtains are ironed and back on the window and the bed had fresh linens from mattress to bedspread, the pillows were even run through the dryer to air and fluff!!!

I’m waiting on the end of the wood heating season to go any further in the house, but it will be done!

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