Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Bee keeping - inspecting the hives this morning

The queen has just been marked with blue paint. Blue represents year 0 or 5. In this case this queen is a 2015 queen.

Bees busy at the entrance of one of the hives.

A box of new supers with starter strips in the frame, ready to be put on one of the hives. I use starter strips now in brood and super frames. I feel it is more natural for the bees to draw their own cleaner wax. It is cheaper. It allows allows me to harvest cut comb honey. In the brood nest I feel it is cleaner to regularly replace all the comb. Its allows the bees to draw cells to a more natural smaller cell size and it makes cutting out queen cells much easier.

Bees bringing in pollen at one of the poly nuclei. 

The queen on the frame. She has green paint on her which is partially worn off. Under the green paint is red paint as she is a 2013 queen. I put on extra paint last year while inspecting this hive as the red paint was almost gone.

I am not too sure of the proper name for this, but at our bee association we always call it 'the crown of thorns'. A young queen has been found on this frame and I trapped her under the crown of thorns so that I could mark her with paint. I also use this to isolate a queen if I need to move her or if I'm manipulating the hive and I'm worried about crushing the queen.

This hive is for honey production. It has twelve frames of brood and two boxes of supers. The number of bees is immense and we hope to get a good honey harvest from this hive. Since we have started to move to poly hives, we have noticed that the queen will lay out to the outside frames, as very little heat is lost and they build up very quickly. I am now phasing out wooden hives in favour of these poly hives. 
This hive has drone comb on the corners of the frames and several empty queen cells. I am checking this hive weekly for occupied queen cells, as I expect it to make plans to swarm soon.

Friday, 29 May 2015

May musings

Life is busy on our little farm at the moment!
I am on a few weeks leave from work and it has been great to catch up with the house, the animals and of course the children.

The weather has been very poor for the month of May. It has been cold and wet with poor grass growth. I hope to get a good honey harvest this year so a few weeks of hot temperatures will be necessary.
My attempted queen rearing using grafted larvae was a failure. The bees rejected the grafts by removing the larvae. I have three hives now with hopefully young queens. I will check them today to see if they have started to lay.

Our elderly wolfhound had a surprise pup two months ago. He is a Irish wolfhound x German shepherd named Fionn. We were quite shocked to discover the pup one morning, as the mum is ten years old and never had a litter previous.

We have our herd test this evening for the cow and calf. The calf is sold and will leave the farm in the next few weeks. 

The magpies are stealing the hen eggs from the coop. It infuriates me as all that is let is a mess of broken eggs in the nest box each evening.
I'm keeping them locked in until noon at the moment but when I return to work they will be let out early and I expect we will have no eggs again.

The pigs are doing well. We need to fatten up the two younger pigs and send them to the freezer. When the calf is gone, there will be plenty of milk for the pigs.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Getting ready for the beekeeping season

After a quiet bee winter, I always get a little excited about the pending season.
I make plans and goals for the season ahead and try and education myself further about how to go about achieving those goals.
With bees you can never learn enough as there is always more to learn, and books can only teach you so much.
So this year I intend to try queen rearing by grafting. It will take a few years to get comfortable and with good success rates but I will give it a go. 

I ordered extra bees supplies this week and made up the grafting frame yesterday and painted three poly nucs. Today I will paint two new poly national hives.
The weather is cool and damp with daytime temperatures at about fourteen degrees. Too cool yet but that is promised to change over the next few weeks.
I have three good hives after the winter. I lost a full strong hive. And when I checked them when there was just a handful of bees left, I found no queen.
She was a new 2014 queen and somehow failed or got lost/died and the hive slowly died out over the winter.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

New calf

Our new calf has just arrived. A lovely heifer!
MamaMoo is doing great and let me hand milk a few litres of beastings to save incase we need it.
Her bag is very tight/full and it give her some relief.
Isn't she cute, we are delighted to have a heifer aax. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Spring update!

It's been too long since I last posted.
I am really busy with work and study at the moment. It will remain like this until May, when I have some leave to take.

I leave for work when it is dark and come home when it is dark, so hubby is dealing with the children and animals Monday to Friday by himself for the most part!
I try and help out as much as possible at the weekends but they don't last long enough :-(

Moo is due her calf on the 8th of March. We expect her to go before then. She is in calf to aa.
As the photos show, she is well bagged up. We are excited about having fresh raw milk again.
We intend to keep the calf with her part of the time, so we can milk once a day. This only works for some cows, as they will hold up the milk for the calf. Time will tell but it would leave us freer with regard milking routines and holidays. 
We are buying this week a new portable milk machine. The motor in our last one give up. So we decided to invest in a new machine with warranty. It is better economy in the end. 

I sent away our 3 yr old gelding to be broken back in January. I just don't have the time to work him until May. He is coming along well and I hope to start competing him next year.

The pigs are coming along well. The winter slows down their growth. A couple of months of jersey milk will finish them well. I will be pleased to see them in the freezer. We might sell the sow this year.
It is a lot of work and feed to over winter pigs. It would be more enjoyable for us to  buy in two Weaners in spring just as the cow freshens and send them to the freezer before the cow drys off in autumn. Without the milk, they are very expensive to feed and cleaning out a pigsty in winter is not much fun.

The fox got to our hens. We have two ladies left that are laying ten eggs a week for us. We plan to buy in another dozen in the next few weeks. We are annoyed to be buying in additional eggs at the moment.

We are about half way through our supply of turf. Ever reliable and cheap. It cost us €180 to get four hoppers of turf cut. We turned, footed and brought it home ourself. I love turf :-)

Our ferrets have kept us rodent free all winter! We have not seen any evidence of rodents in the sheds and surrounds. We keep two ferrets in a hutch in the shed and release them for a few days at a time. They return for feeding. We feed them raw organ meats and bones. They are not the most friendly so I handle them with gloves. They have the habit of mistaking my fingers for food. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

January Snow

The weather has been very cold today, although I think that we have had a very mild winter overall so far. The countryside looked very beautiful this morning as I took these photos while feeding the animals.

The orchard, with manure heaped at the base of each tree.

Moo is due her half at the start of May. She is in calf to an Angus. Her belly has started to get very round. She has not bagged up yet but she has eight weeks yet to go. I am looking forward to having fresh milk again. I really miss my morning shake of milk, an egg and frozen berries. It was a super quick and healthy breakfast that I could drink while commuting to work, and it would keep me full until lunch.

The horses are doing well. The 3 yr old is going to a trainer next week for a few months to be broken. I had considered doing it myself but I have too much work commitments and it just would be easier to let someone else due it.
I will be glad to have him gone as he is a bully and is giving the other two a great deal of grief.

We are about half way through winter and have used just under a third of our turf supply. We should have some for next winter also but we will cut more again during the summer. It is a very economical way to heat the cottage.
During the summer, we plan to put a stove in the sitting room and purchase solar hot water panels for the roof.

Winter has been pleasant but I am looking forward to spring. I am eager to get started again with the bees and to have a cow in milk and a horse for riding. 
The polynucs have surprised me. The bees cluster against the walls, so there must be very little heat loss. One nuc that should not have survived due to the small size, seems to be thriving. These hives are more active on mild days than the timber hives. I intend to purchase a full poly hive to trial this season.