A Book, The Bees, And a Mystery

Rarely have I spoken about my book on this blog.  Advertising my book is a weakness of mine, yet, the reviews are always outstanding.  The lesson – writing is one thing, selling is another.  I smile at that, as some things come so natural to a person while others are as foreign as another language.  I’m sure you understand what I mean.  I mention it today because a person who picked up a copy of my book last year – after a conversation we had at the greenhouse I worked at – loved it!  When you write something and put it out there for the public to critique, well, you feel kind of naked.  The woman I spoke with last season at the greenhouse bought the book, her husband read it and then told her she might not be ready for it.  It’s “a national conversation” is one of the comments I received.  I cannot explain how rewarding it is to get feedback like I received today.  Spurs me on in writing the sequel.  The book is “Truths’Blood” by Tyler Roberts.  I hope you’ll check it out.  Are you ready for it?

For the last couple weeks the apple trees have been in full bloom and today is no exception.  I took a walk around the property today to have a look at things after last nights frost and found the trees full of bees.  (Smile)  Living in the high desert of central Oregon we are susceptible to late season frosts that take the blossoms away.  The last few nights have been coming in the range of 28 and 29 but the flowers all seem in good shape.  Its not the absolute temperature as much as it is the duration of the cold.  I cheat a little when it comes to the peach and the plum trees.  They are done blooming and you can see the smallest of fruits now set.  They bloom earlier than apples and I get them through the Jack Frost nights by stringing some of the old outdoor Christmas lights through the lower branches.  Those lights emit enough heat to protect the blossoms from the frost.  Ha ha, beats the old smudge pots now don’t it!

We have a lot of projects going this spring, one of which includes a new well.  There’s a lot of clean up after a well goes in and after continuing the work on that project I decided to put off beginning the job of filling in the 80 foot trench that was dug to connect the water and power to the new well head for another day and dug a hole at a new site so the peach plum we dug up and moved to allow the drill equipment  in, would have a new home.  So much for working on the root cellar I’m digging by hand.  I still need to mow and get the potatoes planted.  But I feel good about the progress.  So far I have wheel borrowed 6 yards of material from the back of the pickup to repair and dress things up about the place.  Ah, but there is always tomorrow.  I love days like this.  Is it physical labor for an aged man of nearly 62 years – of course, but I still enjoy it and at the end of each day I thank the Lord and say, “lets do it again tomorrow Lord.”

I also took a little time out to pull some of our organic rhubarb and sell it to a sweet old gal who can barely move about.  She’s has been buying rhubarb from us for the last few years.  It set me to reflecting on how I was once a youngster catching a ride in an old freight trains box car without a care in the world, no aches in my bones and happiest when I needed the least .  Is life a mystery or what?

Ok, so I also took a little time to brush up on some rusting drumming skills while playing along with little John Hiatt on the stereo.  (Stereo – you youngsters can look that up.)  🙂  Can’t go wrong with Hiatt.  Alright so on to the bees.  I have 16 hives going this year and the first two inspections started out a little disappointing.  The last of my four hives that wintered is struggling.  Upon opening the hive I found a very scattered brood pattern.  By that I mean the frames were not full of capped brood but capped brood that was scattered all across the frame.  I found this throughout both boxes that make up the hive and realized I have a queen that is not at the top of her game.  When a queen begins to decline they lay spotty brood.  I was saddened to have to dispatch with her.  She had seen this hive through the winter and got them off to a good beginning this year, but this hive should have been overflowing with bees and in fact I was concerned that I had waited to long to inspect it and that they might be on the verge of swarming.  Not to bee.  After dispatching with the old queen I “notched” some young larva cells in the hope that the hive will proceed to raise up a new queen.  I will report back on this in the coming weeks.

On the up side of things the hive I created an artificial swarm in (took the queen and four frames of brood and bees) about 10 days ago is really looking good.  (The old queen is in another hive and progressing well.)  The idea was to have this strong hive raise up a new queen.  In so doing there will be a brood break which helps to control mites naturally, without chemicals, and the hive would have a new queen to continue on.  Wow is this hive doing well.  Full of bees AND honey.  Even though there is no queen this hive is storing honey like crazy – a result of not having to feed new larva, which without a queen there is none.  

The upper box had some swarm cells (the hive is too full) and I dispatched with them in hopes the new queen that will hatch in another week or so will take control of things.  In the lower box I found the queen cell I located a few days ago and it is now capped.  Positive progress.   A new queen is on the way.  She must still hatch and go on her breeding flights without a bird getting her or some other misfortune happening for this experiment to be successful but we are now one step closer with the queen cell capped and the hive awaiting her arrival.   

On the mystery front are two of the new hives I began a few weeks ago.  I couldn’t find the queen in either of them.  In the first of them I couldn’t even find any larva.  This is of concern because you don’t have to find the queen to know she is around – all you need to do is find larva to know she has been there in the last few days and I found none.  In the second of these new hives I found a small amount of larva and no queen.  Both hives have a lot of stored pollen and honey.  After looking at the second hive I concluded that there may not be enough drawn comb for the queen to lay.  These are new hives and they are not full of drawn comb.  Without empty comb the queen has no place to lay.  Lets give these hives another week or so and see if we don’t find some new eggs or larva.

Moral of the story – There are ten hives in my local beeyard and each tells a different story.  If your starting out, if at all possible have more than one hive.  It will speed your learning curve immensely. 

A week from this weekend I will be traveling to Colton where we established four new hives earlier this spring.  They will be about five weeks old when I hold the next class and we do the inspection.  If they are progressing well it could be time to add a second box.  Keep your fingers crossed and I will report back after the hives are inspected. 

Until next time, my best to each of you.  Enjoy your day for all its worth.  Today is all we have.






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