Cyber Monday!

The season for gifts is approaching. I’ll admit that I don’t do many holiday gifts–if I find something I want to give a friend, I’ll just do it so I’ve very little “Christmas” shopping to do–and it’s already done! But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some things that would make great gifts for the right person:

  • For the beekeeper or pollinator enthusiast on your list: some beautiful ceramics from I’ll admit that I don’t often find ceramics that I really like. There are clocks, decorative tiles of various sizes, and more utilitarian things like switch covers and outlet covers that are still beautiful.
  • If you know a honey fan (who doesn’t keep bees but loves varietal honeys) there is a great selection from Old Blue Raw Honey –admittedly not a new suggestion, but there are so many possibilities here or from
  • For the “foodie” not honey- or bee-oriented Bull City Olive Oil has a wonderful selection of extra virgin olive oil–all harvest dated. I’ve found some excellent ones from places that I had not even thought of as producing olive oil, e.g. Australian Hojiblanca.  The selection will vary with the seasonal harvest.  You’ll also find a selection of fused and infused oils that are very tasty, varietal honeys, and balsamic vinegars. Not in Durham? Orders can be shipped.
  • If you have a beekeeper on your list who complains about how hot it is in the summer when using protective clothing, here is a real gem. From Beetle Jail the really cool (figuratively and literally) there’s the Cool Blue beekeeper’s jacket.  It really lives up to is name–you really can feel breeze through it, and I’ve had no stings while working in it.
  • Another that’s not new, but it’s unusual: the Potato of the Month Club. What can I say–I just love potatoes.
  • Then, there is always the Instant Pot. I finally succumbed and after a lot of research on the pros and cons, I bought an Instant Pot–and I love it. It adds a new set of functions to what I had in the Krups multi-cooker with the third-generation pressure cooking function.
  • Should you opt for the Instant Pot you might include a cookbook (or two) that provides a good introduction to using that kitchen appliance. The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Marante fills that slot nicely.
  • Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant is a wonderful book to start using the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. It’s a realistic look at what you can do with these multifunction appliances.
  • For chocolate lovers, Chuao Chocolatier is one of my favorites–good chocolate and some pretty fantastic flavor combinations. I’m especially fond of the Spicy Mayan bar and the Enamored collection–especially the blueberry and lavender combination.
  • Valrhona chocolate has a collection of single estate origin bars that provide a lot of sensual delight for the chocolate lover.

There are more gift suggestions here, here, and here–with some redundancy because some things are just too good to give up.

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliate links and receive no monetary or other considerations from any of the sources I’ve listed in these pages. They are strictly my personal preferences.

A son gôut!



Hive report: a real quickie….



Washboarding bees

I’m such an awful wimp when it comes to heat and humidity. I was planning to inspect both hives today since I would be replacing the empty feeding buckets with full ones. I put additional supers on both hives but I thought I should see how much comb had been drawn in them.


With a heat index of 102°F (even with the humidity relatively low–well actually low for here) I didn’t last long in the bee suit. It’s really frustrating trying to see the world with sweat drops on the bee veil (yes, I was wearing a headband to try and sop it up).

Instead of the more detailed inspection that I had planned, I opted to simply remove the inner cover and see how many frames had been drawn in each one. The Durham bees (the ones from here in town) had drawn comb on almost every frame in the super. The Georgia bees (the package) had drawn enough comb in the super that I decided both hives needed to have a super added before I put the feeders back on.

I still need to do a full inspection before long to check for mites and all that good stuff, but for now, I think I have two healthy hives that are doing what bees do.


The bees are displaying an interesting bit of honey bee behavior: both hives are washboarding. It’s something honey bees do (apparently adolescents), but no one knows what they are really doing, or why. I found a reference that said the do it more on surfaces with more texture, but nothing to say what they are really doing. They just spread out on the hive (usually the front, though the bees from one hive are spreading over onto the sides as well) and are rocking back and forth, doing something with their mouthparts and front legs.

Is it just the adolescents out for a disco day?



Summer plenty

Walking through the farmers’ market we see an abundance of fresh produce. We cook and eat without thinking about the food waste between seed and plate. I’ve posted and reblogged articles about this issue: what has been done in other countries, tips on how not to waste food, making efficient use of leftovers, mindful eating, and grocery shopping for one, all with thoughts about food waste.

vegetable-chard IMG_0728This morning I read an article from Food 52 on kitchen scraps–with some statistics on food waste. This post gave a lot of recipes using those things that we often consider “scraps”–and some information on how long those (sometimes) impulsive purchases from the farmers’ market will last once you’ve gotten them into the kitchen.

This article has links to 125 (yes–one hundred twenty-five) recipes that focus on using that whole bunch of greens (even the stems) and things we often don’t consider for cooking and eating–radish tops, and even peels and skins of fruits and vegetables. We often discard the stems from chard and other greens when we cook the tender leaves but those stems are just as nutritious if treated just a bit differently–added first to the pot, or even used separately rather than discarded.

I’ve not tried all these recipes, but from my experience, the recipes from sources cited here are usually good. Even if you don’t use the recipes per se I think perusing them can show many ways that we can better use our food.


On a related note, while we are enjoying the benefits of pollinators–honey bees included-Summer Harvest IMG_4487-those ladies of the hive are experiencing a decrease in the nectar and pollen that they can
gather–what we beekeepers call a “dearth” (scarcity or lack of something). We are eating and putting by the “fruits” of their work in the spring–and we don’t think about what is available for them at this time of the year.

I’ll be inspecting my hives tomorrow to see how much honey and pollen is stored. Most likely my ladies are consuming stored honey and pollen while awaiting the start of the goldenrod and aster seasons here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. If necessary, I’ll be providing supplemental food (sugar syrup with supplements added) for them until the fall nectar flow starts and they can store honey and pollen for the winter.

I’m not planning a second harvest from hive Rosemarinus, or a first harvest from Salvia–they will get to keep all they produce from the autumn nectar flow to see them through the winter.

IMG_8902Feb hive


Hive report: harvest!

Big day! Yesterday, take off the super, and today–extraction!

I turned into a wuss yesterday and donned the bee jacket and gloves since I was going to pull a super of honey for harvest. I thought I might need to use the bee brush to get the girls off of the frames of honey. Even the calmest of girls can get a bit testy when you start pushing them around, but they were extremely calm and the escape board had worked very well.  (I hadn’t had the full jacket on since last July and I hope not to have it on again for a while.) The thermometer on my shaded back porch was reading 88 degrees Fahrenheit when I pulled that super of honey; I was dripping like a soaker hose. I did have to do a little brushing. The frames were almost all full and almost completely capped–felt like 35 to 40 pounds when I lifted it down from the hive. Much more when toting it from hive to kitchen even though the hives  are not far away.

20160628_101041My first extraction. I really appreciate Brushy Mountain Bee Farm’s video library, especially since I’ve not gone through an extraction with another beekeeper. I know part of the video is to sell stuff, but there’s good information on things to do and not to do.


The kitchen was transformed into the honey room last night: plastic drop cloths  covering the table and the floor, the honey extractor, uncapping bucket, honey bottling bucket and the super of honey (but I did manage to leave a path to the espresso machine for morning coffee before I started the extraction this morning.

I’ve discovered one thing that I thought I didn’t need that I will have by the next extraction: a method of stabilizing the full frames over the bucket that I’m using to catch the cappings as I take them off the cells. It gets rather drippy and slippery as you’re lifting those nice little white caps off of the cells filled with honey. A full frame weighs about 4 or 5 pounds, and holding it up with one hand really exercises some muscles that I didn’t think about until almost the second frame! Why did I decide that I didn’t need the gadget that fits over the bucket and is designed specifically to rest and stabilize the frame?  Beats me now as I’m uncapping!  Hindsight is always so much better than foresight! Sigh!

20160628_103735Since the extractor is a tangential, hand-cranked one, it’s a rather long process and I’ve discovered that how you open the cells makes a huge difference in the amount of cranking you have to do. I opted for a capping scratcher, but it takes longer to spin out the honey with scratching as opposed to actually lifting off the cappings (or cutting with a knife)! After the first scratched frame, I resorted to lifting the caps off. But…next time I’ll try to arrange things so that I can use a knife. (I tried a bread knife, but the comb in these frames was uneven enough that it didn’t work well.

Seeing that first honey drain out of the extractor is a thrill.  Awesome. This was the first real taste I’ve had of the honey from my bees–my local honey. It is certainly different from the jars of supermarket honey that go as “wildflower” honey. True, what I’m extracting is “wildflower” honey, but it’s much more aromatic. I’m only straining–not filtering or heating at all to preserve as much of the character as I possibly can. My kitchen smells so good.

My kitchen smells so good.

I made less of a mess than I thought I might! I’m being un-ecological and not even trying to clean up that drop cloth. The honey  the bucket doesn’t look that impressive, but it is a five-gallon bottling bucket, so there is really a reasonable amount of honey there. Now to clean up the extractor.

The honey in the bucket doesn’t look that impressive, but it is a five-gallon bottling bucket, so there is a decent amount of honey there. I am anxious to see how many bottles/jars I have when I can bottle it after it has stood for a bit to let air bubbles go away (although I’m not entering it in any contests or the state fair–this year). I’m just happy to have it to share with friends.

Now to clean up the extractor and the other bits and pieces associated with this process. Most of it was easy to clean–a little soap and warm water.  I think the extractor is going to have to go outside for a good rinse with cold water from the hose! I’ve heard that I could let the bees come clean away the residual honey from the extractor;  but after a conversation with a Facebook friend, also a beekeeper, that might lead to bees stuck in the honey that’s still on the sides and bottom. Not good–don’t like stuck, dead bees!  I’m letting it sit overnight since honey is still draining down the sides to the bottom; I’ll see what has accumulated in the morning. For now, I feel like it was a good day’s work.


I’m hoping to have a little cut-comb from the outside frames even though the ladies decided that would make a good brood chamber (along with the other three medium boxes). That will certainly be easier to process than doing extraction like this, but it is very taxing for the bees since they have to make new comb. With this extraction, they get the comb back to repair and reuse.







Hive report: 21 June 2016, and addendum

Wow! I’m NOT good at judging how fast my ladies work. I inspected both hives this afternoon–and made a trip to Bailey Bee Supply for more supers to put on the hives and some the basic paraphernalia need for my first honey extraction. I need only worry about the small stuff–the Durham County Beekeepers Association, our local bee club, has an extractor that I can rent–and I’ll pick that up on Sunday.

I’ve put the escape screen on the hive to let the bees out of the honey super, but not let them get back in. In a couple days, I’ll go back and remove the super with the honey and do the extraction.

Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I have brood and pollen stored in the super that was intended for cut-comb honey. The bees had virtually propolized the queen excluder closed so I, in my “newbee” wisdom, removed it.  Seems that ladies didn’t think that they had room enough to raise brood. So–now to figure out what to do about that. Looking at the number of frames that they have already drawn, I suspect that just became a brood box at least until later this fall. Next time around, I’ll know to keep the queen excluder on.

This morning (24 June 2016) I put a new honey super on Salvia–I’ve set my beekeeping software (Hive Tracks) to remind me to check in no more than a week to see what progress the bees have made on that new super. 20160624_112955

Hive Report: 13 April 2016

Though not as warm as I’d wished, and much windier than I liked, I thought it was hive inspection time again. Amidst errands and indexing work, I opened both hives on the 13th.

quad feeder base on inner coverSalvia was quick and easy. The queen was in there doing her thing and easily found since she was marked when she arrived here last summer. I found brood in all stages as well as honey and pollen. Looking good but since this is a small colony I’m feeding them. I removed the Miller hive top feeder which I find difficult to handle if there is any syrup still in it (and it seems that there inevitably is). I replaced that with the hive top feeder that I got from Brijean Acres Apiary after a Facebook friend told me how well she like that type of feeder. It sits on the inner cover and holds four quad feeder with jars in placesmall-mouth mason jars. Since my hives are just outside my front door, I can check feed often, so this feeder works well for me. I’m feeding that colony 1:1 sugar syrup with Honey-B-Healthy. (Though they are doing some foraging they are still taking the syrup. When they quit taking it, I’ll quit feeding.)


Rosemarinus was quite a project–three medium hive bodies, two medium honey supers, and then the one honey super for cut comb honey. This inspection of the hive was to check the queen cells and look for a new queen.

That hive still seems to have an incredible number of bees even after that swarm which was small. It was so windy with gusts that made it difficult to use the smoker. Just getting the girls to move so that I could pick up frames by the ends without smooshing bees was difficult. I was wishing for frame grips when I had to resort to picking up some of the frames in the middle.

I didn’t get a full inspection of the two very heavy honey supers but on earlier inspections, there was no brood in them. I did inspect the three medium hive bodies frame by frame. The swarm happened on 24 March. When I looked in the hive on 31 March, there were some queen cells and some brood. On this inspection, I found no eggs, larvae or capped brood but there were open queen cells. Some looked as if they had been opened from the side. I hope that is a sign that there is a queen lurking in the hive, and I just didn’t have a good enough eye to find her. I saw one closed queen cell that I left in place since I didn’t find a queen.

I’m getting a bit antsy since that same day I saw a group of bees (about the size of the original swarm) flying around quite a distance from the hive. They eventually went back to the hive, and I haven’t had bees collected on the outside of the hive as I did with the original swarm. I saw a good example of a virgin queen at our last DCBA meeting so I’m sure that I might well not have seen a queen even if she were in the hive.  Once I do find her, she will get mark so that it’s easier to find her amongst all the other bees.

Now I have to wait. Not patiently, but wait to see if the colony is going produce their own queen or do I need to purchase one from a supplier. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the colony will (maybe even already has) provide a queen–these seem to be very gentle, productive girls. I like that!


Hive inspection 29 Feb 2016

IMG_8958It’s a lovely, sunny (but slightly breezy) almost 70-degree day, fit for a hive inspection to do a recheck on the queen cells noted on the 21st and to go into the bottom body to assess brood. I was fortunate to have friends–aka “bee buddies” to lend extra hands and eyes. So there are a few pictures of the queen cells and (unfortunately) of the two varroa mites that we saw.

There is lots of activity in and out of the hive. It appears that the girls are finding pollen–a rainbow coming in ranging from cream, greenish-white, bright yellow, to deep golden yellow. The pollen baskets are better filled today. There were drones out and about today too.

Happily, the queen cells are still open and without egg or larvae–which makes me a happy beekeeper. Although there was some capped brood in the lower body, there is not enough capped brood to do a split, but lots of nectar and pollen stored.  I have to wonder if they were not slightly honey bound.

I did place a new super with wax foundation for the girls to expand into so that the queen has more room to lay–so that I can get enough brood to do a split in a month or so. It’s a relief to find those queen cells still vacant today.  I’ll be hoping that they are still vacant in a week because we have some more cold weather forecast.

The girls have demolished five pounds of fondant in the past week, and given the forecast, I guess I’ll need to supply more food for that period, but since we still have some nighttime temperatures hovering close to, or slightly below, freezing it seems a little premature to start syrup yet. Now the question is do I buy more fondant or do I try one of the techniques for feeding granulated sugar.

I got my first look at varroa mites–two of them–on one bee today. Even with the video of last week’s inspection and looking at lots more bees today we saw only two. It’s time for me to get out the sticky board and also to do a sugar roll to get a better idea of the mite population.


From hive to apiary?

hive added The bees are sending signals–they think it’s spring, no matter what the calendar says, or what the infamous groundhog says. (Happy groundhog day, all.) In reading about beekeeping you often find mentions of the varied opinions of different beekeepers–as 5 beekeepers and you will get at least 5 opinions. Well, in describing my hive situation to three master beekeepers I’ve gotten only one opinion: prepare for swarming.

Not being one to ignore what seems good advice, especially with the consensus.  I’ve set up another hive in preparation for  (but hoping to prevent)  the swarming. One hive is soon going to become two.  The bees may dictate that I’m going to do this split sooner rather than later! I won’t know until it’s warm enough to get a good look inside the hive to see if there are swarm cells, or not.

Right now I don’t know if there is another queen in the making in the main hive (I guess that’s hive #1–but I need to think of something more poetic). From some quick searching on the internet, it looks as if I may have not choice but to allow the girls to “make” their own queen for those that stay behind in the main hive.


I keep mentioning candyboard (or candy board) but I don’t think I ever explained what it is and why I put one on the hive for winter.

sugar in mould for bees


Bee candy is just about what you would make for yourself–sugar and water–cooked to a hardball stage then poured into a mould that fits on top of the hive so the bees can get to it for emergency food in cold weather. The bee candy likely has some additions that you’d not like–essentially vitamins, and pollen or pollen substitutes. The is a picture of a candyboard taken in Bailey Bee Supply store while I was there purchasing hive components for the second hive. This is hard candy.  (There’s a photograph of the candyboard that I put on my have after the bees had worked eaten some of it.)  They ate the whole thing! Much sooner than I expected. Now depending on the weather the bees will need more “emergency” food.

Another option for feeding during times when there is not an adequate nectar flow is fondant (soft candy). Since I’ve displayed absolutely no talent for making candy–ever–I chose to buy both the hard and the soft from bee suppliers. I’m going to try the fondant for feeding now until the nectar flow starts. I’ll have to make some other decisions about feeding when the split is made–all rather weather dependent, and bee dictated.

It is possible to feed bees table sugar in other ways. In warm weather, a 1:1 sugar and water syrup works well, or dry sugar in an emergency. (There’s more about my adventures with that in other posts.)

Now, off to the books to learn more about doing splits! These girls obviously didn’t read the book or look at the weather forecast.



Christmas day at the hive….


I’ve just been out to take a look at the hive–I can’t help wondering if the girls boggled by the weather as I am. Sitting here working with the windows open is just not what you expect for the 25th of December.The bees are still foraging, but there is not a lot of pollen coming in, though there seems to be more today than a few days ago. Maybe more blossoms out there after the warm period we’ve had.

From the looks of the candyboard, there’s been a lot of noshing going on up there, as well as bring in what they can find. This yo-yo makes it really hard to figure out what to do with feeding. It’s been so warm that I’m now wishing that I had not placed the candyboard yet–I could still have been feeding syrup–but hindsight is so much better than foresight!

Now I’d best take a cue from these busy little creatures and get on with current indexing–do a little foraging myself for entries.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all!

Hive Report (13 Dec 2015)

IMG_8824Warm enough today to I could open the hive and remove the strips I’d placed for Varroa mite treatment. There was a lot of activity at the front of the hive.

I didn’t do a full frame-by-frame inspection but removed all the boxes to get at the mite strips and remove the wooden entrance reducer and place a metal mouse guard for the winter.

IMG_8826Seems that the girls have been noshing on the candyboard already–in retrospect I probably should have waited until December to put it on, and just continued with the syrup feedings until then. But hindsight is  always better than foresight.

When I lifted the two upper boxes they were heavy–so they must be full of honey. Just looking down between the frames it looked as if there was a good supply of capped honey. The bees weren’t clustered–they were busy throughout all the boxes.

The bottom box was lighter–probably because some honey has been used from there already since there’s not much for them to forage on at this time of the year even though I’m seeing a little pollen being toted into the hive.

I didn’t try to find the queen this time–with all the activity and loads of bees I assume she is in there doing her thing–and it’s too late in the season to really do anything if not.  Keeping fingers crossed.

I’ll take a peek later when there’s a warmer day just to see how much of the candyboard has been devoured, and add sugar if necessary.