Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Beekeeping - Captured Swarm of Bees at Permaculture Farm

I mentioned yesterday that I went down to check on the bees Saturday and I saw a swarm attached to a tree  branch.  I went up to the cabin to get some supplies and by the time I got back they were gone.  I assumed they had left, but now I am thinking they may have gone back into the hive.  I have heard that if you see your bees are about to swarm you can clang a pot and pan together to mimic the sound of thunder and sometimes the bees will move back into the hive.  They do not want to swarm before a storm.  It was raining Saturday, but I do not remember any thunder.  I was surprised to find the swarm on a branch of the same tree when I arrived home yesterday. 

A little info about swarms...  When a swarm starts it will only fly a very short distance from the hive where the queen will send out 20-50 scout bees.   The scout bees will inspect sites for their new home.  The scouts return and perform a dance.. the more excited the scout is about the location the more enthusiastic the dance is.  The scout tries to entice the other scouts to go with it to visit the site.  It may take a few hours or a few days for all of the scouts to agree on the same location.  At this time the swarm leaves for its new home.  

This is a closeup of the swarm.  It is hard to say how many bees are in the cluster but I would guess about 15000 bees.  Sound hard to believe?  When you order a package of bees you typically get a 3 lb package which is about 10,000-12,000 bees.   I have ordered a few packages in the past and this swarm was slightly larger than what would come in a package.   

 I quickly grabbed my supplies (suit, gloves, hive components, and shears).  I set the new hive up and then while holding the branch with one hand I carefully used my shears to cut the branch away from the tree.  I slowly walked with the cut branch and swarm over to the new box.  I placed the limb on the hive and then slowly started brushing the bees off of the branch (see brush in picture below).  

 After most of the bees were in the new box I closed the box.  I have my fingers crossed that the bees will stay.  I think often times people take a frame of brood from one of the existing hives to install into the new hive.  I will check this afternoon to make sure the bees are still here and if they are I will give them a few days to settle in before going into the hive.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” 
― Willie Nelson

I was out on the property this weekend and spotted a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak.  This is the first one I have seen on the property.   They spend their winters in tropical areas and then migrate north for the summer.  Their summer range is from Tennessee to Canada.   I grabbed my camera as a second though this day, but I am fortunate to have it.   Ironically, later Saturday I walked down to check on the bees and there was a swarm on a branch a few feet of the ground (from one of my beehives).  I had a  box there but I went back up to the cabin to get my camera, gloves, and a few other things.  When I got back the swarm had already left.  I need to get back into the habit of always keeping a camera with me when I am out and about.  Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail

Instead of driving my car down to my cabin I have an area at the top of the hill where I park it and then I walk along a little trail down to my cabin.  There was a small opening near where I park that was prone to erosion and had little vegetation.  Back last fall I planted the area in crimson clover.  The past couple of weeks it has been covered with insects and you can see where the deer have been bedding down in it as well.  I enjoy stopping by every day and looking for new insects and seeing signs of where other wildlife has been visiting the area.  I have started keeping a journal documenting what butterflies have been seen on the permaculture farm.  

The main host plants for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail are the magnolia, peach, and the cherry.  They prefer to feed on the nectar of legumes, sunflowers, echinachia, marigolds, zinna, and yarrow.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Solar Fish Feeder

A surveying friend of mine was telling me about his dad making a fish feeder using the energy in the water flowing through his spillway to produce a small amount of electricity via a generator to have lights installed on float.  The lights attracted insects that would ultimately end up in the water where they would quickly become  a meal.  I had been wanting to build this for a while and found time this week to grab a few lights.  I went with two spotlights and 2 of the normal patio type solar lights.  I had some rigid foam board from a previous project so all I really needed was one treated 2 x 4 x 8' and one treated 1 x 6 x 8'.  I left the float sitting out overnight to make sure all of the lights were working.  I will the kayak out this weekend and place the fish feeder.  I have an eye bolt near the center and will be using a CMU block I have onsite as the anchor.  After a few days and letting the fish get used to it I will post back on the results.   

Hearts-A-Bustin - Softwood Cuttings - Propagation


"You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted." Ruth E. Renkl

Hearts-A-Bustin is sometimes referred to as Ice Cream for Deer because it is supposedly there favorite plant to browse.  Are here the plant is somewhat hard to find because the deer population is so high.  I noticed this plant back last year at a nearby park so I went back a few days ago and took a few cuttings.  I took the cuttings at least 5 nodes back and trimmed the leaves off the first 3 nodes.  I then dipped the cuttings into glass of water and then into the rooting hormone.    This is my first time trying to propagate this plant so I will know in a few weeks how successful this project will be.   

On a side note, I ordered a few of these plants a few years ago and planted them on the edge of a field.  I didn't realize at the time that these plants do not do well in direct sunlight.  If you are able to get your hands on a few of these plants make sure you plant them in the shade.  I plan to install a chain link barrier around each shrub about 3 foot in diameter.  This will allow the deer to browse on them but not do enough damage to actually kill the plant.  

In addition to be a favorite food source for deer, they also have a wonderful fall color.  I will post a few pictures soon I took last fall of the flowers in bloom.   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Solomon Seal - Native Plants

" By night we lingered on the lawn, For underfoot the herb was dry; And genial warmth; and o'er the sky The silvery haze of summer drawn"  - Tennyson

Solomon Seal is one of my favorite wildflowers.  I planted some last year but unfortunately it also was dug up by some critter.  A friend recently gave me this plant and I am doing daily inspections to make sure the same thing doesn't happen.  Solomon Seal can be used in a tincture to help heal injuries to ligaments, tendons, and muscles.  Some people use it in teas to help with anxiety, etc. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Native Plants - Bloodroot and Mayapple


“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” 
― John Muir

I had a busy weekend putting out plants and starting some new seeds.  I needed a  break so figured I would take a short walk down to where I planted a few natives this past year. 

I was surprised to see that my Bloodroot had made it.  I out it out last May and it was a week or two before I went back to check on it.  I noticed that a squirrel or some other critter had dug up the roots.   I had this problem with about a dozen plants I purchased from one particular nursery last year.  I started putting a couple of moth balls out with each new plant and that seemed to keep the critters at bay.  Bloodroot has a white flower when in bloom and a red dye can be obtained from the cut root.  This dye is still used by many Native Americans.   The plant is also toxic.  

Not far away I saw several Mayapples along the forest floor.  I dug some of these up last year in an attempt to start them on our property.  I was pleased to see about half a dozen of these in the general area.  I have noticed in the past that box turtles seem to be very fond of this plant.  Considering that box turtles tend to favor toxic plants, it is not surprise that the Mayapple can be toxic, especially at certain times of the year (which is probably why it got its other nickname... Devil's Apple).  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Oca - Oxalis Tuberosa - Lost Crop of the Incas

Oca - Oxalis Tuberosa
I have a few new things I am planting this year.  Oca is considered one of the lost plants of the Incas and is second to only the potato in root crops in some European countries.  I am planting about 5 different varieties of the Oca.  I planted three indoors and they have germinated and are doing well.  The others should be sprouting any day now.  You are supposed to harvest them about a month after the tops have died during the fall.  They can be cooked as tomatoes, added raw to salads, eaten in soups, or added to stir-fries.  I had a hard time finding a source for the tubers but I expect they will become more abundant in the future as permaculture continues its growth.