Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tractor House

So after six months of pulling a tarp over Ol' Blue, it seemed like a good idea to make a tractor port on the side of the barn.

Here's the before picture... I decided to try using those cement blocks with the built in bracket for a 4x4 post - you can see them on the right. (Truth be told, I totally did not feel like digging another post hole.)

Using a string level, I figured out how long the posts should be since the ground was not level. I measured down from the top 4 feet and cut a notch for the cross members.

Here's the three posts with the cross members installed. It's not perfectly level, but it's within a few inches. I braced them on the bottom to keep things plumb.

Here's a close up of the notching on the top. I saw this technique on a tv show. Seems like the smart way to go to have the board supported before I added the roof trusses.

I put up 2x6 roof trusses every four feet.

Frank the Dog was in his supervisory spot by the bush. He was closely watching the project... OK maybe closely is a bit of a stretch.

My neighbors helped out with cutting the metal roofing to be installed.

I added some other cross members four feet on center to have something to drive the screws into. Here's how the metal
roofing looks installed.

Here's how it turned out.

It's definitely been nice to just drive into the cover to keep the tractor dry. I put some wood chips down to keep the grass from growing and to level out the ground a bit.

Check another project off the list.
See you next time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

First Time To Open The Bee Hive

Saturday was the big day. I needed to open up the bee hive and take a look. I had several simple goals:

1) Find the Queen.
2) Inspect a few frames to make sure things were looking good.
3) Install the new hive box, new inner cover and new telescoping lid.

I shot a few short videos with my digital camera:

I didn't have any problem getting good smoke in the smoker for the first time. I think I was getting too much smoke to be honest.

Everything was set. Time to go in and take the lid off and see what was going on for the first time. I have to admit it's a bit nerve racking. This is only the second time I've been around an open hive. The first time was at Bee Keeping class at Trees N' Bees, and I wasn't the one doing the actual keeping. I was kinda nervous.

I was doing pretty good, until I turned this frame over and saw the hundreds of bees on it. I knew I needed to either spot the Queen or find some eggs. I didn't have the patience and nerve to keep looking for the Queen, and I'm 75% confident that I saw some eggs. Or it might have just been my mind wanting to see some eggs.

When I got the top off, I noticed that the Queen cage was still in there between two frames. So it looks like I've got a new Queen. She's not in the cage anymore, and with all the activity in the hive, I can only assume that she's doing her thing.
I removed the Queen cage and thrw it away. There was also quite a bit of wax on the top of the frames. The hive did not have a proper inner cover or lid. So I cleaned up the frames and scraped all the wax off the tops. I saved the wax to make a candle or something later. We'll see.

So Mission Accomplished...sort of. Maybe I should have been wearing a flight suit with a banner behind me. I kinda did what I set out. I'm just hoping for the best. I'll open it up again in a few weeks.

I've been going out a few times a day an making sure there's some activity around the hive. Opening the hive sure set the girls back on drinking the sugar water. They were doing an entire jar a day, and that dropped to about 1/3 of the jar since I opened things up. I'm going to check it Monday - I think it'll be empty by then.

I'm curious if they'll be able to fill up that entire second brood box this summer? It would be nice to be able to take a bit of blackberry blossom honey this first year out.

See You Next Time~

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sugar Water For The Bees

I've had my bees for just a few days. I went to Trees N' Bees in Auburn to get some supplies, and they recommended medicating this first gallon of sugar water.

I'm sure that there are enough flowers for the girls to survive, but giving them some sugar water just makes it easier to establish the hive.

I got a little jar of Fumadil-B. This treats a bee condition called nosema. It was pretty easy to mix up. I followed the directions in my Beekeeping For Dummies Book. It's been quite helpful.

I put 2/3 of a gallon of water into a pot. When it came to a boil, I turned off the heat, and added a 5 lb. bag of regular sugar. Wait for it to cool to room temp, then add the Fumadil-B slurry to the sugar water, and "Bob's Your Uncle" - to borrow a phrase from the Brits.

I'm using an entrance feeder I got from Trees N' Bees. I initially thought I'd get a top feeder. It sits on top of the hive box and you can put 2 gallons of sugar syrup in there, but they told me that is better for the fall, and in the spring to go with the entrance feeder. I cleaned out a mayo jar, and put it on the hive a three days ago.

They told me that an active hive could go through a jar in a few days. I've been checking it every day before I go to work. The water level barely seemed to move at all for the first two days, then I checked this morning, and it was empty. The whole jar in 24 hours.

This weekend will be the first time I open up the hive and inspect the queen and the frames. I'm also going to add a second brood box and frames, and I got a new inner cover and telescoping lid. That should be interesting.

See you next time

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Box O' Grub

Well, we joined a local CSA Farm (Community Supported Agriculture).
I've been looking into this for a while. There are a few resources that are good. One is the slow food movement.

Another resource in the Puget Sound area is Eat Local Now. They are in the forefront of the movement here in Washington. It's pretty basic, you buy a "share" of a local farm, and they give you fresh, local food. Most of them are veggies, but there are also cheese and meat CSA's too.

I picked Full Circle Farm. I liked that you can do it all online, you can opt out when you want, and that they have flexibility on the frequency. I picked every other week for two people for $29.

I picked up my first box from Full Circle last night. Here's what we got:

Now it's time to make my first rhubarb/strawberry pie.
I have to admit, that I've never been much of a rhubarb fan. I found a recipe online for a rhubarb strawberry pie. So I thought I'd give it a try.


Here's the berries and barb cut up.


I used the recipe from my baking class at Renton Tech I took last year for the dough.


Here it is ready to go in the oven.


The edges of the crust got away from me. I'm sure there's a better way to do it, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I also learned to put something under the pie pan to catch the overflow. Didn't really know about that - now I've got to figure out how to clean molten pie filling off the bottom of the oven. Good time.


It was really good with a nice big glass of milk while I watched two episodes of the Wire last night.

See you next time

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Picked Up The Bees Today

Today was the day I was supposed to pick up my bees. I've been needing to get a fence up around the bee yard. But I got wrapped up in a bunch of other projects and didn't do it. So I was up against the clock today. I managed to put up some t-posts before I had to go pick up the bees. I'll make sure to get the fence up this week. I think the best time to work would be in the late afternoon.

I found my bees on Craigslist. A local guy sells you the bottom box, a young queen, and 9 frames. It was $150.
There were about 40-50 hives sitting here. I don't think this was his primary bee yard, just the delivery spot.

I was the third person there, so I just asked the bee keeper which hive he thought was the best one left. There was a green box that had a lot of activity, so I went with it.

The beekeeper said I didn't need to put the strap on, but I figured I'd err on the side of safety. Plus the shocks on the truck are pretty stiff. That was pretty much it for the load in. I shut them in, and headed home.

That's me in my bee suit carrying the hive. They were not very happy after the car trip. A lot of buzzing around. I wanted to get them on the stand as soon as possible without tripping over something. I tried to remain calm. Even though you know you have the veil and the gloves, it's still kind of strange to have all those bees on you. I'm sure I'll get used to it. The Cowgirl was about 200 yards away taking this picture. Funny.

So here's where it's at right now. You can see that I need to get the fence up. I also got some barbed wire to string up. I don't know if it'll keep out a bear, but we'll see how it goes. My neighbor said he saw a bear back there last year, but I haven't seen one. Again, better err on the safe side.

Tomorrow after work I'm going to stop by the bee store and pick up a top feeder to get them some sugar water. I need another brood box, and a new top lid. I also need to pick up a smoker and hive tool. I might go ahead and get a few honey supers depending on how expensive everything is. Oh, and I'm going to pick up a spare veil just in case there's a brave soul that wants to take a look up close with me.

Here's a quick video right after I got it settled.

See You Next Time~

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

$5 Birdhouse

Or "What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?"

If you actually want to know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow - click here =).

During my class last weekend with the folks from Horses For Clean Water, I noticed they had a lot of little birdhouses around their place. Alayne said something like, "These swallows can eat thousands of insects per day..." So it seemed like a good idea to install a birdhouse or two. I hope the swallows like flies, because they are starting to show up a lot around the horses.

I looked around on the Internet and found some free plans for a swallow birdhouse.

I printed up the instructions, and took my $4.85 piece of pine to the workshop. It was pretty simple to draw out the cut lines on the wood and cut away on the chop saw. I did find out that my chop saw is about a degree out of square after I tried putting this thing together. I don't think the birds will mind.

Step two is to drill the 1.5" hole that will be the door. Just a word on my $5 Birdhouse price. I'm assuming that one would have the basic tools, and I didn't buy any nails or the little hinge for the roof. If you had to buy everything on the directions it would be a bit more.

The directions also called for some score marks on the inside that the baby swallows can use as a ladder to climb to the door. Glad they included that, because I never would have thought of it. I just used a speed square and small chisel to make the marks.

Next up, just nail it together. As luck would have it, I just lent out my compressor and nail gun that would have made this a snap, so I had to go back to the old fashion hammer and nail.

My first choice for nails were too thick and started to split the wood on the side, so I thought I'd just drive a screw in there - still to thick. So after digging around in the "Misc. Parts" box, I found some smaller nails and those worked great. I also put some glue on the joints just in case.

For the roof I used a scrap from the siding I bought for the Horse stalls, and I found an old hinge in the junk box.

Finally I found some old marine paint that I never used in the paint cabinet, and decided to throw that on. I didn't paint the inside of the house, just the outside, making sure I got the cut grain on the top of all the boards. Hopefully, it will make a great home for an insect killer, and will last a few years.

I'll update it when the paint drys and I find a place to hang it up.

See you next time

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Conservation District Class or How To Deal With Horse Poop

Our local King Conservation District had a class today right around the corner from our place on Manure Control and composting, pasture rotation, and some other stuff. I went by to check it out. Alayne and Matt from Clean Water For Horses hosted it at their place. We met them at another class a while back, and have since been horseback riding with them a few times - really nice people, and very helpful to the newbie rancher.

One of the biggest things that I like about being involved with this program is the cost share program. Once you get a farm plan with the conservation district, they will reimburse you up to $5000 on improvements to your property that are approved in the plan. Things like stall footing and fencing, French drains and a bunch of other categories. Any time I can get some help paying for farm stuff, I'm there. Plus they have a lot of really good ideas on the best way to do things in this area. It can get really muddy up here, and figuring out the best way to combat that at the least expense is the way to go.

We got a demonstration on Horse Poop. We need to build our manure confinement areas. (Add that to the list!) It doesn't seem that hard. Keeping it covered seems to the be the trick up here - so that it doesn't get too wet. Too much moisture and the pile compresses and no air gets in there, and then it really stinks up the place. If it's "cooking" right, and you're getting plenty of air in the pile, the odor is not bad at all.

Another really good idea I got was not to mix the gravel size in the horse runs. We have a mud pit at the end of our runs right now. I was thinking of putting down some big gravel in a layer, compacting it, and then putting some smaller gravel on the top. Matt said he tried that, and as the horses walk on it, the bigger pieces work their way to the top. The sharp edges on the 1 1/4" gravel is not comfortable on the horse feet. So that was good to know - we are just about to order a few truck loads of gravel.

The other really good idea I saw was to install a Rain Garden for runoff. I'd been thinking about this because we just got our new roof installed and I need to get gutters put in. I was wondering what the best way to handle that much water going to one spot would be.

They had a really cool booklet they gave out. I can't seem to find an online version on their website, but I'm sure you could get one at their office. (Add that project to the list.)

Overall, it was 2 hours well spent.

See you next time.