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The Broody Hen & Seedling Status

The broody Buff Orp finally has her own place.  Steve finished making a broody pen for her to safely hatch out her chicks without the other hens climbing in the nest with her and picking on her chicks as they hatch.

I don’t think she even noticed the move.

It’s now staying warm enough at night that all of the seedlings can live outside 24/7.  The four flats in the front are 288-cell plug trays that Charlie & I planted with a variety of flowers a couple of days ago.

The TPS are all doing well… except where the cats walked across a few.  Grrrr.

After the premature potato pulls the other day, I got some good pulls from shoots that had nice leaves (from the same tubers).  They’re doing very well and, today, I have to go down and do more pulls they’ve pushed out over the weekend.  We’re going to (hopefully) have potatoes coming out of our ears this year.

A sea of tomatoes, planted up to their uppermost leaves when I potted them up recently.  They’ll go out in the garden as soon as Steve builds their new home.  Wait until you see it!

Speaking of tomatoes, I’m growing OSU Blue this year.  It’s not quite a stable variety, as I understand it, so I’m going to document the four seedlings I’m growing out this year, as we go along, noting the differences to help me with my seed saving.  It’s not reported to be terribly tasty but a blue tomato?  You know I have to grow it.  For the kids, you see.  Yeah, that’s it.

OSU Blue #1:

OSU Blue #2:

OSU Blue #3:

And the runt of the family, OSU Blue #4:

My favorite photo.

My budding photographer, Isaac, snapped the following shot a few days ago.  It’s my all-time favorite photo of Steve.

More random Isaac photography:


Rain, rain, go away…

Today’s a rain day so not much outside is getting accomplished, other than feeding the bees.  Thankfully, it’s not coming down too heavily.  Things should dry out pretty quickly so we can work on getting the garden prep completed this weekend.  *crossing fingers*

Over the past couple of days, I’ve managed to do the final potting up of the tomatoes and sweet peppers.  I’ll try to get the chiles done this evening but don’t hold your breath.  My rhythm on seed starting & potting up has been shot all to crap this year but I’ll still end up with decent seedlings to plant out.

We have a seriously broody hen (the Buff Orp) but, due to having far too many irons in the fire right now, Steve hasn’t yet been able to get her a nesting/chick box built.  Here’s hoping the rain lets up so he can get it finished up this afternoon.  A couple of the eggs she was setting got damaged so we cracked them open.  Yep, definitely developing!  It shouldn’t be too much longer.

What else?  The onions are doing well, as are the brassicas.  I got the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, and Brussel sprouts all thinned out and sprayed with Bt & spinosyn.  (I’m doing a bit of an experiment to compare the two.)  I’ve pulled much bigger, better (tuber) potato sprouts and potted them up.

How about a partial tour of the odds & ends gardens?

Spearmint from Susan has settled in and gathering strength for its upcoming attempt to take over the world.

Lemon balm from Susan is taking notes & learning from the spearmint.

Walking onions from Ilene, just beginning to set heads.

Garlic — can’t remember if I brought these from Oklahoma or Ilene sent them.

Sunchokes, definitely from Ilene, showing their heads at last.  They like to sleep in almost as late as me.

Only half of the Starkrimson rhubarb came up, shown below, so I bought a bag of Victoria rhubarb from WalMart to fill the empty area.  No sign of them yet but they’ve not been in the ground long.

An impulse buy of Steve’s:  Some sort of mosquito-repelling plant (not citronella, according to the label).  One plant for five acres.  That should do wonders, don’t you think?

Apple mint.

Orange mint.

Alpine strawberries.

The permanent plantings that go in the wheel beds, I’ve labeled with paint pens.  I’m working on other labels as well but I figure the more labels, the better.


Blackberries and releasing the queen

It got down to freezing last night.  Ack!  We had to carry ALL of the seedlings down into the basement.  What a pain.  Next year, we’ll have something heated-greenhouse-like!

A local email classifieds had someone selling starts of Chester (thornless) blackberries for next to nothing so we got a dozen.  All nice, healthy starts.  I planted them along the inside of the raised wheel garden fence.  Now if we could just find cheap raspberries…

Just to show where we’ve put the hives:  It’s just past the back corner of the shed.

It gets great sun since we cleared out the trees to its south, nice air flow around it, without being exposed to the whipping winds.

Yesterday, Steve & Charlie released both queens.  All went well and we hope to see evidence of her laying on our next inspection a couple of weeks from now.

They’re going through a LOT of syrup right now so that we have to refill their feeders every day.  I’m not sure how long we’re supposed to feed them but I think at least a couple of weeks, maybe longer as they are getting established?  I need to read up on that.

Charlie and Cody fed the bees just a bit ago and now Charlie’s at his desk, making notes in his newly-started bee journal.  The kid who doesn’t like to write, making notes in a journal?  Voluntarily, with no prompting?  Cool.

Random Bee-ness

More Isaac photography.


#4: Marking the queen.

This is the Italian queen box.  The worker bees have built comb on it during their trip.

We brushed off the bees.

After breaking off the comb, we all shared it, chewing it like gum.  There wasn’t much to it yet but it was sweet.

The queen in her box was set inside the muff (in the house).  We took out the cork and out she came.  Charlie tried catching her but no luck.  Steve, Sr. caught her and marked her but it wasn’t quite good enough for us to be sure it’d be durable.

Steve, Jr then took a turn.  Those big ol’ sausage fingers managed to get her marked good & solid.  He ended up doing both queens.

We found a couple of hitchhikers.

There have been a few stragglers in the house since Friday.  I’m sure some came in with us from the installation, maybe riding on our clothes undetected.  Some others, I’m sure, have come in the window that we leave slightly open as a “cat door”.  That huge lilac-like bush is right outside that window and the bees love it.

Voila!  Queen marked and safely back in her box.  Poor thing was our guinea pig, the first one to get marked.  The Italian bee, the second one marked, is much neater.

We put her back in her hive where she’ll stay corked in her box for a couple of days.  Monday or Tuesday, after the workers have had a chance to accept her and make the hive their home, we can safely release her to do her thing without worry of the other harming her.

Now, when we inspect the hive, we’ll be able to more easily spot the queens.

#3: Installing the bees.

FYI:  Since I was part of the installation, I gave Isaac a three-second lesson on my camera.  (1.  Here’s the display.  2.  Here’s the on/off button.  3.  Here’s the button to push to take a photo.  Oh, and 4.  Break my camera and you will die a horribly slow and painful death.)  He did an amazing job!

First step is taking the can of syrup out of the top of the package.  It’s what the bees feed on during their trip.  The Carniolan bees had about half of theirs left but the Italian’s can was empty.

The stuff of nightmares for those of us who grew up with “Killer Bees!” movies, eh?

The package was set aside for a moment while we removed and futzed with the queen box.

The queen is shipped in a little box within the bigger package.  Steve brushed off the other bees clinging to the outside, then we took her in the house to mark her in the queen muff.  (I’ll get to that in the next post.)

After spraying the bees with sugar water, I started dumping them in their new home.  It’s not terribly easy.  You shake the snot out of them to get them to fall out and you have to slap the sides to get the clingers to let go.

Bzzz!  I felt a burning so did the girl thing by making a face and stopping all progress to check my boo boo.  But I didn’t see a boo boo.  Must have been my rather active imagination.  It felt real!

Okay, back to dumping bees.

Steve got the last of them out and this is what remained in the box.  It was set beside the hive so the stragglers could join their group whenever they got around to it.

We had to temporarily leave the last couple of frames out because of the giant clump of bees sitting there.  One will stay out until the queen box is removed but we did manage to get the other one in Saturday.)

This was just the Carniolans.  Then the two Steves handled the Italians, with the kids’ help, of course.  Isaac started taking more random bee pics after that so not so much to post about the installation of the Italians.  No matter, it was the same thing, just with hairier arms doing the dumping.

A HUGE thanks to Steve, Sr for helping and being a part of this and to the beekeepers’ group for the incredible sharing of knowledge!  And, of course, to Charlie who got us all started on this adventure.  This is gonna be fun!


#2: Building a queen muff.

We wanted to mark the queens when we got them so that, later on, they’d be easier to spot in the hives.  To do that, you need a “queen muff” which is a cage sort of thing to keep her from flying away while you mark her.  We could have purchased one but, at last Tuesday’s beekeepers’ meeting, a fella named Bernie brought in a homemade queen muff and I was inspired.

Charlie and I set to work Thursday and knocked one out.

We made a cube out of scrap wood that was laying around.

Attached screen to five sides.

Charlie inspected pantyhose.  No, really, it was part of the project!

Okay, maybe not this part.

Ta-da!  The black tape covers the scratchy edges of the cut screen.  The duct tape gives something more sturdy to staple the pantyhose to.  Later on, when I’m really, really, really bored, I’ll edge it with some bias tape and sew it down onto the pantyhose & screen edges so it’s a bit sturdier.

Stick your hands through the pantyhose legs (hose feet are cut off) and do your thing with the queen.

Steve was quite proud of his giant paws being able to fit into queen-size pantyhose.

More later!

#1: The bees are here!

In anticipation of the bees arriving, Steve finally got down to business and built a stand for the hives.  This will keep it off of the ground so they’ll get more air flow and less pestering by critters.  (It’s way too tall — or will be as we add more boxes to it.  I’ll wait for Steve to be a good mood before I point out to him that he made a boo-boo and needs to make it shorter.)

Hives in place with single brood boxes to start.

The bees arrived Friday afternoon and pick up was arranged in a Hannibal hotel parking lot.  Lots and lots and lots of bees.

We got one package of Carniolan and one package of (Italian) Minnesota Hygienic.  Each package has one queen and three pounds of workers & drones.

I’ll admit to being a tad bit nervous, knowing that there were hitchhikers:  bees who were not actually inside the packages but just hanging on to the outsides, walking & flying freely.

Of course, I had nothing to worry about and all was well.  Except for Charlie’s enormous, goofy head.

(I’m going to split the bee pics into a few different posts so you don’t have to put up with an enormously long post.  I’m also adding a new post category:  Bees & Chickens.  That’ll help keep this a bit more organized.)

Adventures in Potato Shaving

The tubers from Jay that I shallow planted in order to pull rooted shoots did their thing.

FYI:  If you have a grow-light set up in your basement, hundreds of seedlings, and your neighbors occasionally visit your basement, you may want to rethink any labels with “pot” in them.  Ahem.

A little bath knocked off enough dirt to see what I was doing.

I think, next time, I’ll let the sprouts get bigger before I shallow-plant them for roots.

I used a pair of nail clippers, the file part, to “pop off” the rooted sprouts.

A clean-shaven spud!  And all of those little rooted sprouts got planted into pots, hopefully to each grow into big, healthy potato plants.

Editing in a tidbit from Tom Wagner on the above pics, in case future potato pullers come along and think these tiny shoots are suitable for pulling:

My opinion….those are removed too soon…they need more tops. The shoots must have leaves to carry on photosynthesis to perform well during the recovery.