Archive for November, 2011

Apiary Adventures

Mel Pulling

Wayne Pushing

Settled In

No honey for this beekeeper this year!  Many Alaskans simply harvest their honey by basically robbing the bees of their supplies, leaving the little ladies to eventually die with the onset of winter and no food.  Definitely not the path I wanted to pursue.  I decided to give it a shot at over-wintering and if successful, the bees will be a lot more productive next year compared to purchasing new ones.  I went into fall with two hives, the “old” one which is the original hive and the “new” one housing the group that swarmed.  The old hive had about 70 lbs of honey going into winter but the new one had very little so it’ll be quite a struggle for them in the coming months but I’m keeping optimistic.

The main steps for preparing for winter are explained in more detail below but include:

1) Feeding winter sugar syrup

2) Placing entrance reducers on the hive

3) Insulate the hive while ensuring adequate ventilation

4) Relocating to secure sight (out of wind!)

Once the weather started cooling I began feeding them winter sugar-water which differs from their spring feeding in that the ratio of sugar to water is a lot greater.  The more food they can store going into winter the better they will hopefully fare.  In the end they went through a total of about 35lbs of sugar or so!

The little ladies were quite sassy this fall during what is known as “robbing” season.  Their guards were up and ready to attack the various hornets, wasps, etc. trying to steal their food stores as well as me, trying to get a good look inside the hive to make sure things are functioning normally.  I had a few stings this fall, one lunged into my hair (though I somehow managed to escape sting free from that incident), and Wayne experienced his first sting ever.  He was quite whiny about it but recovered just fine.  I usually get very swollen and itchy but luckily, given my previous stings of the season quickly learned several coping strategies and walked away with only a slightly red mark.  (Thank heavens for the local herbalist and her osha root tincture!)

The hives also received entrance reducers which did just that, reduce the size of the entrance to only big enough to allow a bee or two to go in and out.  This helps with robbers trying to find their way in as well as helping regulate air flow as the temperature drops.  As you can imagine, the winters are mighty cold and long here so while it is important to insulate to keep the hive warm it is also very important to ensure air flow is happening in the hive and condensation isn’t forming on the top lid, thereby dripping down onto the “cluster” and making them freeze.  (Cluster refers to just what the bees do in winter, form a tight cluster in the center of the hive and vibrate their flight muscles to generate heat and keep warm.  They can regulate the temperature somewhere around 100 degrees.)

So, in order to insulate the hive, I simply placed  some rigid insulation (blue-board) on only the top of the hives and wrap the sides in tar paper with the idea that they would help minimize air flow (wind) though the sides and also act as a thermal mass when and if the winter sun comes out.  I also made sure to create a vent in the top back of the hive for moisture to escape and prevent condensation.

The next step was to relocate the hives from the field next to the house to ensure protection from our infamous 55mph wind gusts.  This basically required  a few straps, taping up the hive’s entrances, loading on a sled and schlepping across the lawn.  Definitely a two person job!  Once in place near the house, where they will be protected from the wind and hopefully get a little warmth from the house, I put a slight tilt to the hives, angling the front down a bit in the case condensation occurs it will run down the inside front of the hive and out the door.

So the little ladies are all tucked in and if the weather does ever get into the high 30’s they will venture out for some fresh air and a restroom break.  I’m crossing my fingers the winter isn’t too long and too cold! And next year I look forward to harvesting some honey!


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Suki's Birthday Morning

Blueberry Picking
Well I think winter is here to stay in the northland.  We finally had some snowfall Halloween weekend and it promptly blew away after two straight days of wind with 55mph gusts (did I mention how miserable that kind of wind is!?)  Anyway, we had a beautiful fall, full of sunshine and color, albeit too short for my liking. There have been so many things to squeeze in and prepare for winter’s coming so it has been quite busy around here.

I’ll recap some of the highlights:

We celebrated Suki’s 2nd birthday on September 6th and her first year in our home shortly thereafter. We woke her up from her morning slumber with too many presents; I think she was a bit overwhelmed.  It was a day of gifts including treats, bones, toys and her favorite squeaky balls.

We enjoyed a visit from Wayne’s mom Kathy and her friend Soni for two weeks in September.  They came to help celebrate the wedding of my brother in-law Randy to his new wife and with this the Jenski family promptly grew in number with the addition of five new nieces and nephews into the Jenski family.

I tucked my bees in for winter which involved a series of steps including regular feedings of sugar water, insulating their homes and relocating adjacent the house.  I’ll post some photos and details later.

We enjoyed lots of foraging and learned to identify quite a few plants and fungus this fall.  A trip to Girdwood for Fungus Fair 2011 gave us a proper introduction to the world of fungus and we even sauteed up our first loot of mushrooms, a variety called “angel wings”.  I learned to dye material with fungus while Wayne learned to propagate oyster mushrooms; he took home a spore filled bag and I took home two hand dyed scarves and a new-found hobby of natural dyeing.  We picked high bush cranberries, wild blueberries and raspberries from our backyard and made up some yummy jams while I proceeded to collect other goodies for various tinctures and dye projects. I also learned about and made some yummy fermented foods which are so very very good for you. More on these adventures to come!

We also celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary with a trip south to Valdez.  Lots of hiking, sightseeing, glaciers, wildlife and time together.  I’ll post pictures of that trip soon too.

Last month we had over 75 people in our house as part of the Palmer Art Council’s underground tour in which Wayne’s plants took center stage.  He also completed a series of botanical illustrations of recently discovered carnivorous plants for a book that was just recently published and is working on three more for another upcoming book.  Our local paper, the Frontiersman is schedule to come over for an interview with him tomorrow morning and he continues giving lectures to classrooms.  So as you can see, he is quite busy with his plant hobby.

I’ve religiously attended belly dancing and yoga class for over a month now and am really starting to improve on the dance front which is really exciting.  And for the record I haven’t cut my hair since JUNE! Working towards a few things on my 30×30 list….

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