Six degrees this morning as I type this. Cozy inside though as we have had the stove going all night long and everything outside is prepared for winter weather, but the dog did give me a dirty look when I let him outside this morning, as if to imply it was my fault his water dish was frozen solid. If you get weather like this be sure to leave faucets dripping and open up the cabinet doors under sinks for additional warm air circulation.
I lost another beehive this last week. Its all part and parcel with beekeeping though I must say you never get used to losing what feels like a friend. All summer you watch them work so hard, swarming to your garden, your fruit trees and raspberry patch and then suddenly they are gone. Both hives had plenty of stores that would have seen them through the winter, so what was the issue? It appears to be mites. Both hives that went down are second year hives – hives that have had time for a mite load to build up. Then in the fall when the bees are pulling down their numbers for winter, say from 60,000 to 10,000, a mite load that the 60,000 could live with now weighs down on 10,000 bees. The remaining bees are faced with 6 times the mite load and it leads to a colony collapse.
The four remaining hives are all first year hives. Its no guarantee they will make it but first year hives generally have a better chance because the mite load has not yet built up as great in them. So whats a Beek to do? I’ve doing more research on that and one of the things to do is to split your hives in the spring. The split breaks the mite cycle and also gives you more hives. Basically, instead of allowing the hives to get to be two years old you split them into new hives.
I will be talking about this more in the spring time when I go through the process of splitting the hives. For now, keep warm and keep your pipes unfrozen.
Yesterday the sun was out and the temperature approached 60 degrees. The bees were loving it and I opened up the hive I recently lost so they could rob honey out of it. It appears I lost the queen in the hive that died out. Not quite sure why, could be mites, but I’m suspicious that yellow jackets may gotten the queen. They were hanging around this hive more than any of the others so its possible, but really, I’m just guessing.
The hive I lost came from a split and sometimes when you force a hive to make a new queen they don’t produce the healthiest queen while doing it in a hurry. It’s just hard to say because she was very productive. The hive was stuffed with bees this summer and I even got a little honey out of it, so I go back to being suspicious of the “destroyer” yellow jackets.
Did you know that in the fall yellow jackets are producing nothing but queens. A hive will be filled with hundreds of them. They will fly off and find a place to winter all alone. Under your eves, in the cracked bark of a tree, a rock wall or possibly even your attic space. in the spring these queens will find a place to build a new nest and begin repeating the cycle. Yellow Jackets you see in the spring are most likely new queens.
The sunny day brought out the bees in my remaining five hives and it was a delight to see the air full of bees and the hives quite active. I know they all have good stores of honey for the winter and solid numbers right now. With any luck they will all see it through until spring.
That’s all for now. Tomorrow I will be at the local book store for a book signing of my book Truth’s Blood. It’s my first book signing and I’m looking forward to it. If you want to check it out you can find the book at the links below. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.
Obviously there’s not a lot going on in the garden this time of year, at least here in the high desert of central Oregon, so I haven’t posted anything in a while. We do have a cold frame up and the garden greens continue to roll in, thanks to my wife’s diligence and persistence in growing fresh healthy food for our family. Though it freezes most nights it is amazing what continues to grow in the cold frame. The lettuce is nearly bursting through the roof and some beautiful dark green spinach is not far behind. The cabbage continues to grow too, but it is more of an experiment to see what happens.
We also canned six more quarts of tomatoes this last weekend. If you cover your tomato plants to protect them from the early frosts it is surprising how far you can carry them into the fall. So a couple weeks ago we picked the last of them and laid them out to ripen on a table in the garage. Those last tomatoes provided us with another batch of tomatoes to be used for sauce. There are also a few we will allow to ripen to put in salads well into December.
As far as the bees go I have already lost one of the six hives. Its one of those unknowns that comes with beekeeping. On Oct. 5 the hive was full of bees and looking healthy. Three weeks later they were gone – the hive had collapsed. I did take the opportunity to harvest the honey they had stored for winter but would have preferred to have the bees. I will be taking some beekeeping classes over the course of the winter with the first class beginning tomorrow and may post some of what I learn in the class.
With the exception of putting a little straw around the base of my young grape plants to provide insulation from freezing, the garden is put to bed. That includes cleaning out the chicken coop and tossing the manure into the garden beds so it can weather and break down throughout the winter.
This is the time of year I turn my attention to writing and as such have just begin the sequel to my first book Truth’s Blood. I will also be at a book signing this Friday evening at a local book store.
My best to each of you and my your holiday season be stress free and fun!
This weekend we took the last of the covers off the tomato plants and collected some beautiful red tomatoes right from the vine. Its been a fairly typical season in that we always carry through tomatoes to the last few days of October. Sitting on open racks that allow for good air circulation, these tomatoes will keep until the new year in our unheated garage. Nothing like bright red tomatoes from your own garden in December, especially when compared to the pseudo tomatoes the grocery store sells.
After harvesting the last of the tomatoes my wife laid our protective blankets over a beautiful row of young cabbage while I brought in firewood. The orange and yellow leaves festooned on all our trees are making this one of the most splendid seasons of fall color I can remember.
After doing a little clean up we checked on our recently planted garlic. There they were, brand new bright green shoots sticking their heads up out of the soil waving at the sun. Garlic loves cool weather and will be about the first thing to begin growing in the spring. Often times you can see them beginning to take off as early as late February.
After checking on the garlic we raised the lid to our cold frame and were amazed at the growth taking place inside. You could almost picture the plants gathered around a miniature wood stove, staying warm and growing to beat the band! The new lettuce is nearly lifting the roof off the cold frame, the newly planted spinach is big and dark green beautiful, and the young cabbage is growing nicely. At some point it will get cold enough the plants will stop growing, but the cold wont kill them and we will harvest fresh greens virtually all winter long from this little space in the garden. Mixed with the carrots we cover with straw (just not yet – still too warm out), we will be able to have fresh garden veggies right up until we can plant new crops in the spring. There are many cold frame designs and you can pick whatever size and style suits you, but whatever you choose, it is well worth looking into.
A short update on bees. All hives were checked to see if they still contain pollen supplements. Four of the six hives do and two hives that had used up everything I had placed inside received some additional supplements. I will soon be taking some classes from Master Beekeeper Instructor Steve Harris and Natural Beekeeping instructor Ross Conrad. I hope to learn a little more about what can be done to get our bees through the winter.
Have a great week everyone!
Did you know most fruit contains its own pectin? That’s right. There’s little reason to add pectin to make your fruit jell and if you don’t add pectin you don’t need to add as much additional sugar. Adding less sugar will be viewed by most as being healthier, but there’s an additional benefit that is often overlooked. When you add sugar you dilute the natural flavor of the fruit. Using the recipe shown below we will use less sugar and you will find a surprising intensity of flavor coming through that is entirely unexpected. I think you will find this to be the best jam you have ever made.
- 8 generous cups of raspberries
- 3 cups of sugar
1. Place your berries in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring them to a hard boil for one minute, stirring constantly. You can mash the berries if you like but we have found they pretty well break down on their own.
2. Add the sugar and return the mixture to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture will form a jell, probably 10 minutes or a little more.
To determine when the mixture is forming a jell you can test by doing the following. Dip a cool metal spoon into the hot fruit mixture. Lift it out and away from the steam and turn it horizontally. Initially the liquid will drip off in a light syrup, later, the drops will be heavier. The jam is done when the drops are very thick and two run together before falling off the spoon.
Filling Jars - We usually fill our jars with hot water to pre-heat them and prevent cracking which can happen when the hot raspberry liquid is drop into them. Pour out the water and fill each jar to within a 1/2 inch of the rim. Be sure and wipe the rim clean to remove stickiness before placing a lid on the jar. Tighten the band on the jar until fingertip tight.
Processing - Your water bath should already have been heated to near boiling so its ready to receive the jars of jam. After placing the jars in the water bath be sure the water level covers the jars by one to two inches. Cover the canner and return the water to a boil. Begin timing when the water begins to boil. Process for 5 minutes.
Remove the jars from the canner and place on a surface covered with towels or newspapers. Allow to cool for 24 hours and check that jars have sealed. (sealed lids turn downward) Label and store in a cool dark place.
This recipe makes about 4 pints of jam.
I think you will be delighted by the intense fruit flavor this recipe yields.