The Twelve Days of Spring

Twelve days since the last post and so much has happened, I’m sure I’ll forget the majority of it.  I should have been making little journal entries each day.  You’d think I’d learn this lesson already, as many times as I do this but no…

Most exciting is that Susie, one of our Kinder does, had quads!!  They’re all bucklings which kind of stinks but I think we should be able to find homes for them.  We are allowing Nellie to keep one as a wether since it’s her first batch of babies.  The others will be sold as either bucklings or wethers, depending on the interest.  I’ll get some pics of each one and post them on a for-sale page in the next few days.  One of them is much bigger than the others and came out ready to take on the world.  Two were born with good strength.  Those three are all nursing well on Susie.  The fourth was the runt and weak.  Nellie has named him “Band” because of a white band around his belly.  We are having to bottle feed him but he’s doing pretty well.  I think Band is the one she’ll end up keeping since he’ll be so attached to her from the bottle feeding.

Those dozen Icelandic chicken eggs I got in the mail and put in the incubator?  Only two hatched out.  The lady I bought them from packaged them very, very well so it’s not her fault.  The box was labeled “handle carefully”, “fragile”, and “live embryos”.  I’m imagining some disgruntled postal employee taking out his frustrations on my eggs and scrambling them.

In the incubator now are a couple dozen guinea eggs, seven Red Bourbon turkeyssssss eggs, and 17-ish chicken eggs.   There are a couple of pretty green ones but the rest are a beautiful deep brown.  We have one chicken — and we still don’t know which one it is — that started laying this year, the dark egg pictured below.  It’s such a gorgeous color, I’m hatching some out to see if I can get some more dark-laying girls.  Of course, most probably won’t lay that color but I’ll see if I can keep a couple of them going.

darkeggs

The garden…  Oh, boy.  I got all of those wonderful tomato and sweet pepper seedlings from my friends over at Terripin Farms.  After studying the forecast, I decided it was time to plant out the tomatoes.  Ha.  The night before last, May 11/12th, we got a nice, thick coat of frost.  It’s not pretty.  I’m giving them a few days to see how many of them can shake it off and regrow but then I’ll have to start hitting up the farm stores to buy replacements and replanting.  Yay.

The pepper plants were brought inside as I know better than to plant them out that early but, last night, temps got down to 39-ish and they were not brought inside.  I was getting kids in bed and asked Cody to bring them in for me.  Well, he forgot and I just assumed he did it.  Crap.  They’re alive but peppers exposed to temps that cold are generally not very productive, ever.  I don’t yet know what I’m going to do about the peppers.  Maybe I’ll just plant them anyway and treasure what I do get out of them.

Other than that, the lettuces are doing well and we should be overrun with it in a few short weeks.  Neighbors, beware!  I’ll be hanging bags of lettuce on doorknobs every other day.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the fruit trees this year.  We’ve had a couple of frosts after they’d blossomed and/or set fruit.  I guess it’s another wait & see deal.  At least our trees are still young and we were not expecting a whole lot out of them yet.  I have progressed further along my “Holistic Orchard” road, planting (clearanced cheap!) daffodils, lambs ears, and that sort of thing in the mulch around the trees.  I’m going to work on planting some comfrey and walking onions under them this week, along with some (also clearanced cheap!) hostas I snagged from the frostbite damaged table at the farm store a few days ago.

Bees!  Last week, Tracy (a friend of mine and new beekeeper) and I went over to Janet’s (a fellow beekeeper at the same level as me) house.  Janet has three hives — three very strong hives that overwintered.  We went through them all, trying to decide which one to split because she only had enough extra equipment for one more.  One hive was huge and had lots of queen cells.  The smallest hive was looking good but still had a few frames to fill and was perfect for putting supers on.  The middle one looked, to me, textbook ready for a split.  So that’s what we did.  We did an even split, dealt like a deck of cards, ala Michael Bush.  I really think they’ll do well but only time will tell.

Then, this week, the gals came over to my house.  Friday, we went through my hives.  The packages are looking good with brood and stores in each but were not yet ready for a second box.  One of them might be ready this week so I’ll be sure to check them soon.  We did notice supersedure cells on both of the packaged bees so I take it they didn’t like their queens.  I’ve read that it’s fairly common in packaged bees.  We spotted the queen in one of them — a big, beautiful girl!  And we saw some bees with droplets of nectar on a back leg, transporting it somewhere.  That was pretty cool to see but I’ll have to do some reading to find out what’s behind that particular activity.

Charlie’s overwintered hive, while not as crazily huge as Janet’s, was doing well so we decided to do a split on it.  We did the same even split as we did at Janet’s, except ours are in mediums only, whereas hers are in deeps.  We split the bottom box evenly and the top box evenly so that we now have two hives, two levels deep.   One will have the old queen and the other will raise a new queen.  We hope…

I have trouble spotting eggs.  As in, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen eggs in my own hives.  That’s pretty bad.  I know there are eggs because there’s brood every time.  I just can’t see the suckers.  If I can get to where I can spot eggs, I’d like to make some nuc boxes up and then start making nucs myself next year.  Anyone know the secret to spotting eggs??

Oh, I ordered a nuc!  We’re pretty excited about it since we’ve only had packaged bees, swarms, and cutouts before.  We should be picking up any day, I think.  This will put us up to five hives if that split takes.  That gives us some much-needed buffer for losses.  That reminds me:  We saw no mites whatsoever on my hives.  Very cool!  I know they’re still there but at least the levels aren’t so high that they are easily seen, as we did at Janet’s.  I was looking pretty hard at the drone comb and saw nary a one.  I think I’ll get out there and do an alcohol wash once the splits have had a chance to get going and see what the mite count is.

One Response to “The Twelve Days of Spring”

  1. Robin May 14, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    Seeing eggs in comb: Last year, my ability to see the eggs was limited to whoever I had with me during the inspection. I started leaving a magnifying glass in the bee tool bucket. Worked great. Also, I got new glasses. Even better! It’s nice to be able to see the eggs.

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