Second Day with the Bees

I was a little worried this morning, because all the bees were clumped together inside the hive and not moving.  But I think it was just too cool for them to be out and about, because now the sun’s out and it’s warm, the bees are busy flying around and exploring their new home.

They really are gentle bees.  I can walk right up to the hive, and open the observation window in the back, and the bees aren’t bothered.  They do come up and buzz around me, and often one or two will land on my shirt and walk around, but they are clearly not being aggressive.  Hopefully this will continue to be the case, once the new queen arrives, and they start raising brood.

Here’s a video I made of today’s activity:

The bees are so cool.  I’m going to name the queen/hive, so any suggestions?  A front-runner right now is Queen Mab!

The Honeybees are Here!

It took them a full seven days to arrive, which was somewhat worrisome, but the worker bees arrived in great shape.

It was really odd; they came in a wooden box, open on two sides with metal mesh!  You could totally see the bees!  I can only wonder what my mail deliverer thought of this delivery!

We installed the bees into the hive without any trouble.  The bees were flying all around us, but neither of us were frightened at all.  It was fun!  And they were very nice bees…we didn’t get a single sting.  I was too busy to take video, but here’s a video from someone else, showing you the process.

It all went very smoothly – except for one thing.  When I took the queen box out of the package, she was dead.

This is not a good thing, but it’s not a complete tragedy.  I called Charlie, my bee seller, and he is going to ship me out a replacement queen ASAP.  He said the bees will be fine without a queen for a short time; they will get to work building comb and honey.  And he says when I put the new queen in, I’ll get to experience something a lot of people never get to see: how happy the bees are to meet their new queen.  He said they make a special noise and dance, and it’s really quite something!  So I’ll keep you updated on that.  In the meantime, here’s hoping the worker bees are happy in their new hive and settle in and start making honey!

 

Lotta Things Going On

Quail update:

The babies are now just shy of five weeks.  When they were four weeks, I finally took them out of the inside brooder and put them outside in the big coop.  They still have their Brinsea EcoBrooder out there for warmth, but although I see them occasionally underneath it, I don’t really think they need the warmth.  But just in case…

Here’s one of them at four weeks:

The first thing they all began to do was take dust baths.  It was pretty stinking cute!

And here’s a video I took of them shortly after they went outside:

As of today, they are just shy of five weeks.  I know that I have at least five boys, because they have developed the golden chest without speckles.  Of the other three, I’m positive one is a girl, but I’m unsure of the others.  They still have speckles, and I think they are acting more like girls, but I’ve been fooled before by a male who kept his juvenile speckles longer than his siblings.  I really, really HOPE I have three girls!  Fingers crossed!

The boys also have more vibrant coloring on their heads.  Some are brown, like this one; others have nearly all dark brown/black.  They are really pretty.  I wish I had room to keep one of the boys!

They are a lazy lot.

The one on the far right is one of the Maybe Girls.  Notice the light speckling on the chest, and the lighter head.

Here’s the five week old babies running around.

Cinna’s girls have developed a taste for worms.  They go crazy when I bring them a few, and lately whenever they see me they hang out at the wire front, begging.  If I open the top of the pen, they will actually jump up in anticipation.  One grabbed a piece of my hair once!  They have become completely fearless.

In the garden, Spring is definitely here.  Everything has suddenly become so green!

Some of the clematis are blooming:

The new fig is leafing out (and still has a few figs from last year.  Will they ripen this year? No idea.)

There are also a few aliens emerging from their winter hibernation (or perhaps they are baby kraken?)

The tomatoes have graduated to the cold frames, and it will only be a short time before they will be too tall to fit.

My kitchen window is now full of baby Ground Cherries, instead.  The straw bales have gone through the conditioning process, and it is now time to plant.  This a straw bale I bought at the same time, and which has been sitting outside in the weather:

This is the top of one of the conditioned straw bales:

Look how the color has changed!  You can see that something is happening.  Plus, it’s sprouting a few stray oats (or wheat, or whatever straw is made from) from the bale.  Clearly my bales were not weed-free.  Oh well.  At least I know the bale is ready to go!

Because I have extra tomatoes, I tested putting a couple of those out in the straw bales – with the added protection of a frost cloth.  If these two do well, I’ll be moving the rest into the bales very soon.

One big thing we did was have a few big weeds removed from the front yard.

Big weeds.  Really big.  Do you see the first weed?

No?  What about now, after it’s been taken out?

I have planted a quince in the place where the fir tree used to be.  The tree was leaning badly toward the street, and we were afraid its roots might be plotting terrible vengeance against our water pipes.  So, out it went!

And we also had the Eager Beavers take out a couple of ugly trees against our house.  I highly recommend this company for tree removal.  They are super fast, efficient, and fun to watch.

Before:

After:

This summer we’re repainting the house and fixing up the plantings in front.

And for no reason at all, here’s a couple videos of my hen, Ellie.

All the girls know their names, and will come when called, but Ellie comes at top speed.  She’s my special love.

And I’ll close with a picture of Daisy.

 

Frogs, Fruit, and Chicken Poop

Yes, it’s finally here.

The alpine strawberries have flowers.

I found a frog in one of my water gardens.  He jumped out immediately when I saw him, but I have hopes he (or actually SHE) was in there laying eggs.  I’ll have to check for tadpoles later.

The front yard vegetable garden is pretty much in place (as least as much as I’m going to do on it this Spring.)

A good share of those beds are now planted with seeds of various kinds: lettuce, beets, and chard galore.  I’ve started the corn inside, and before too much longer, I’ll be getting the beans in.

The straw bales for the attempt at Straw Bale Gardening are coming on just like the book says they should.  This is day six of “conditioning”, which is basically just watering them really well and adding a high dose of nitrogen.  I stuck a couple of fingers down inside the bales this morning, and they were really hot, which is exactly what should be happening right now.  I’m kind of excited about this trial.  I’m going to plant mostly tomatoes in them, because they could certainly use some extra warmth in my climate.  I always struggle with tomatoes, so if they do well with this method, I might very well continue it every year.

I also did the first pruning cut on the new (future) espalier trees.  I took off about a foot of height, bringing the top down to where I want the lower set of branches to be.  It was a bit of a wrench, cutting them!  They were already so small, and the top was starting to leaf out a bit.

Yesterday, I was thinking about all the fruit vines, trees, and shrubs I’m adding to the yard.  Here’s a list of what I’ve put in so far:

Two varieties of Blackberries

Two varieties of Raspberries

Three varieties of Blueberries

Three apple trees

One Honeyberry (I need to add another to pollinate it)

Hardy Kiwi

Two varieties of Grapes

Two varieties of Gooseberries

One Fig

One Pear

One Thimbleberry

Two varieties of Quince

Four varieties of Currants.

And in the next year or so, I plan to add another Honeyberry, six more apples, another pear, two more varieties of raspberry, blackcaps, a mulberry, another currant, and a peach tree.  And perhaps a cherry, if I can find one that will stay small enough.  Oh, and a Chilean Guava, to replace the one that died.

Can you tell I really, really like fruit?

Possibly Thursday, but definitely by the weekend, the baby quail are moving outside.  They are almost fully feathered, and although they are extremely contented in their brooder box, they have definitely outgrown it.

I discovered an interesting thing about my chickens the other day.  If you own chickens, perhaps you’re familiar with how horrendously stinky their fresh poop is.  Older poop…not smelly at all, but when a girl just drops one, it could clear a room!  At least, when the hens are eating conventional layer mash/pellets.

We’ve had our girls on a grain diet for around a year, and they are allowed to forage however many bugs and worms they can find, as well as eating greens like grass and dandelions.  Sometime in the middle of winter, I noticed that I didn’t smell anything when the girls pooped right next to me.  A few days ago, I tested it by getting down close to some freshly dropped poop and taking a whiff.  Nothing.  No stink at all.

Their feathers are glossy and lovely, and even though all the online sources tell me that four-year-old hens are “old” and probably are not laying anymore, my girls lay an egg nearly every day.  They do take a break in winter, because I don’t provide extra light, but otherwise you could never tell these girls are “old”.  They clearly feel and act young.

And their poop doesn’t stink anymore!  Wow.

Free Range Eggs

This is the truth of what “free range” eggs really are: not humane, and not free.

This is why I have backyard chickens.

http://www.edgarsmission.org.au/29389/dear-ripley/

Just Because

It was a beautiful day in the garden.  Warm, tshirt weather, and green, new sprouts, buds, and leaves.

I worked on the front yard vegetable garden, but the pictures I want to share are just random things that made me happy today.

A weird mushroom thing.

Several of them, in fact.

They are very tiny, and look like hollow balls.  Or alien spawn.

There are flower buds on the brand new currants I planted just a few weeks ago.

And the quail babies are still sweet.  This one is my buddy.  She likes to sit in my hand and look around.

Pretty soon I’ll have to start thinking about how to move them outside.  They are already beginning to outgrow the brooder box.

And there’s Ellie, my Welsummer hen, and my sweetest baby-girl of all.  She’s very camera shy…hence the leery expression.

We spent some time sitting in the sun together.  Her, on my lap, snuggled in tight against my chest.  She’s a great conversationalist, even though my chicken is pretty rusty and I don’t catch everything she says.

She also helped me dig out the old compost bin, carefully removing all harmful (and not harmful but tasty) bugs before the compost went into the new garden.

And then we had another snuggle in the sun together.

It was a very good day.

Quail Love, Tomatoes, and Straw Bales

The tomatoes I started from seed outgrew the grow light.  There just wasn’t room for all of them underneath it, once I transplanted them into larger pots.  Plus, I wanted the light for Ground Cherries, so the tomatoes went into the kitchen window.  And the living room window, since there are so many of them.

This was about a week ago.  Today, I transplanted them again.  Since I didn’t actually have any pots the right size, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of plastic Easter pails.

If you’re thinking that they look smaller now than they did then, it’s because each time you transplant tomatoes, you snip off the lower leaves and bury the stem up to top set of leaves.  The buried portion of stem sends out roots, and makes the plant much stronger!

There are still some areas in the front yard vegetable garden that I haven’t had time to build raised beds in.  This means that the soil is still very poor, as I also haven’t had time to put in a bunch of compost.  Since I really, really want to garden those areas this year, I decided to try out Straw Bale Gardening.  I doubt I’ll continue doing it in future years, because straw is not very cheap in my part of the world, but it will be an interesting experiment.  The first step is to “condition” the straw bales, so I’ll be doing that for the next couple of weeks.

At the very least, the straw will turn to compost, and help fill those raised beds!

Today I also finished getting the former quail Bachelor Pad set up in its new location, and moved Peabody and his wives into it.  I built a new nest box for it; basically a box with a roof that raises on hinges that fits inside the quail coop.

Here’s the view looking down into the nest box.

Here’s the view with the nest box roof lowered.

I’m going to put a piece of waterproofing on top to keep the quail (and their food) dry.

Peabody and two of the girls seem to like it.  Mama quail is Not Amused.  She is very shy, and was terrified out of her wits by this move, but she seems to be settling in.  Hopefully she’ll go broody again, but who knows?  Quail are often a mystery.

The babies inside are just two weeks old, and they are nearly entirely feathered out on their bodies.  And they can fly!  It’s not uncommon for one to helicopter straight up out of the brooder when I take the cover off.  They don’t want to escape; they are just full of high spirits, and they love it when I clean their box, because they always get interesting things like dirt to dig in, or buttons to pick at.  They need things to keep them busy and happy, so they won’t develop the habit of picking on each other.

Their legs are also getting insanely long.

I don’t think I ever posted this picture of them at a few days old.  I just reached into the brooder and scooped up a handful!  This was about half of them.

Moving Peabody and his girls out into the their new coop left Loki alone in the old one.  I was going to leave him by himself at first (it’s only a short time until the chicks will be old enough to join him) but he was clearly just too lonely.  Poor guy.  So I ended up temporarily “borrowing” one of Peabody’s girls and putting her in with Loki.

He loves her.  He’s on cloud 9.  It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen; he started running in front of her, neck outstretched, on his tippy-toes.  It must be a courtship dance?  I’ve never seen either of the other two males do it, though.

She was unimpressed, and even less so when he tried to mate with her…and let’s just say…he needed some serious practice to get the technicalities down!  ;)

As soon as he finished, she pecked him around the face a few times to let him know she wouldn’t be putting up with any more behavior like that!  So he went back to his tippy-toe dance again.  Then she got involved in having a dust bath, and he snuck up behind her, and deliberated: did he dare make another attempt?  Would she scorn his attempt if he did?  But oh – she was just so seductive, down there rolling in the dirt!

Success!!!

I wish I’d been able to record this for you.  It was so hysterically cute and funny – especially when he celebrated by performing an especially vigorous tippy-toe dance afterward!

I did go get the camera and record a little bit for you – although he is not showing off the perfect form he previously had in his dance.  I think he was getting a bit tired by this point!

Travel Plans Post

What with the garden and the animals, it’s been awhile since I posted about my travel plans…but I sure have been thinking about them!  I can’t believe it’s next year that I’m going; it won’t be long until I’ll actually be able to start buying tickets and reserving hotels.

If you remember, I was planning on going to England and Scotland in June of 2015.  That has changed.  There are three places in the world that call to me more than anywhere else: England, Egypt, and Venice.  Because of current events, Egypt is pretty much off the table at the moment.  And for some reason, I thought Venice would be too difficult to combine with a trip to England, thus the addition of Scotland.

Then a friend made me jealous with *her* trip to Venice, and I looked into it.  Turns out Venice is only a two hour flight from London…and the flights are super cheap.  I could pay more for a train trip in England!  So: New Plan.

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After the England portion of my trip, I will fly to Venice, and spend a couple of nights there, before flying home.

Also, since I won’t be in Scotland this trip, I am changing the timing back to going in September of 2015.  September works out so much better for me, schedule-wise.

And after I decided on September, I discovered the Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing Hamlet at a London Theatre….in September.  So how perfect is that?  Tickets will go on sale in a couple of months, and I’m definitely going to try for one.  It’ll be a little tricky, since I don’t have my exact travel dates nailed down, but I guess I’ll just have to plan the rest of the trip around that single theatre ticket if I get it!

Benedict-Cumberbatch-2

Quail Chicks Update

Everyone is still alive and thriving.

Their favorite time of day is when I clean out the brooder box.  With all the food, water, and heating out of the way, it’s time to run and jump and play!

Their wings are almost entirely feathered out, and they can fly/jump startlingly high.  Give them another couple of days, and they’ll be helicoptering out of the brooder box whenever I open it.

I gave the adult quail some wheat fodder that had been growing for about four days.  They LOVED it.  I wasn’t sure whether wheat grains would be too large for them, but they had no trouble eating it at all.

Out in the garden, the beet seeds I planted are coming up, and so are the peas I thought had drowned.  I had started more in pots, and I put those out yesterday, so altogether, I’m going to have a ton of peas this year, I think.

The asparagus I planted last year are finally coming up!  I’m so happy about that.  Little Blue (one of our hens) got into the patch yesterday and tried to dig them all up, but fortunately she only managed to damage two spears before Mom realized where she was.   She’s a sweetie, though, and is one of the hens that wants to sit on my lap and be cuddled more than anything else in the world. She one eye on me while I’m working, and the moment I sit down, she comes running.  If she doesn’t come running, I know I need to go look for her, because she’ll have gotten someplace where she shouldn’t be!   She’s the opposite of an escape artist…instead of escaping out of pens, she always escapes in.  I’ve tried keeping her wings clipped, but she’s just too determined.  I’m going to have to put a much higher fence around the vegetable patch.

She can also recognize her own eggs.  Today when I gathered eggs from the nest boxes, she came over, and picked her own egg out of the five I was holding, and began “arranging” it in my hand, clucking at it and turning it over with her beak.

EDIT:  So, after I posted this, I went out to shut the Girls in their coop for the night.  Guess who was missing?

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