Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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I'm in Detox, and you can be too!

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions, but just so happens that this year I'm determined to cut out as many chemicals in my life as I possibly can.  It's really harder than you think, in today's world.

Our skin absorbs most anything that touches it--just like if you swallowed it.  YUK!  If you think of the skin that way, you'd be more careful about what you came in contact with.   This makes one think about everything that we use each day to keep ourselves "beautiful" and "presentable".    Read the labels and if you wouldn't swallow it, don't put it on your skin!

First I got rid of the antiperspirant deodorant.  This has been a little challenging, but I'm managing.  I haven't made my own deodorant yet, but am using Tom's brand until I get the time to make a batch from several recipes I've gathered.  The antiperspirant part of deodorant isn't good for us, nor is the aluminum, so I'm doing something different.  It doesn't keep you from sweating, but if you keep your pits clean it's not that difficult.  

Shampoo.  I've made a batch of shampoo bars.  A little more difficult to use, but I really like how my hair feels when I wash it.  It's just a recipe with coconut, palm, kukui nut, olive oil, and a few other things in it.  At least I can pronounce everything that's in there.

Next comes the conditioner.  The last bottle of conditioner I had, I threw the bottle away.  Now I just rub a squirt or two of sweet almond oil into my hands and work it through my hair and it works just fine.

I have naturally wavy/curly/thick hair and I don't curl or style or color it so these natural remedies are perfect for me.   Really, I'd say they would work for anyone who wanted them to work, whether blow dry, hot curlers, or curling iron.

Body lotion went away as well.  I found a recipe for solid lotion bars that I could scent with my most favorite smell in the world---Patchouli--and that's what I've been moisturizing with.  The bars work really well because it melts with the heat of my skin (lotion was always cold) and it feels really good!

Handmade soap has been a staple in my household for about 20 years now, and patchouli is my favorite.  My kids, although grown and gone now, still appreciate a gift of homemade patchouli soap for birthdays and Christmas.  I can also pronounce everything that is in the soap recipe.

The latest addition to my anti-chemical arsenal has been a reverse-osmosis water filter for the kitchen sink.  Many years ago I had one and loved it.  The filter makes water taste like....well.....nothing!  What water is supposed to taste like.

The next target is homemade toothpaste and deodorant.  It's really scary when you start looking at all the ingredients that are put in the things we eat/use every day.  It almost seems like a plot against the health of the human race......


Installing the packages of bees in the new hives

Crab Orchard, Tennessee--You know how it is when you're anticipating something--for months--maybe years.  Not years in this case, but I've been studying and learning all I can about keeping honey bees since last summer.  I spent all winter building 3 hives and obsessing over which "way" to keep bees.  Natural beekeeping caught my eye, but the Warre-style hive was just too different than hives that will accept traditional frames, so I opted for foundationless frames in a Langstrongth 8-frame medium with a quilt to absorb moisture during cold weather--I've detailed the construction in earlier posts.

I did get a bottle of Honey-B-healthy to mix with the sugar water I was feeding the bees.  At Thursday's beekeeper meeting several members were really praising the product and said that the bees really seemed to like it.  Since I have brand new hives and no drawn foundation for the bees, I put beeswax on the starter strips in the frames and sprayed the entire inside of the hive box with the sugar syrup/Honey-B-Healthy solution.  I hope it works to help them decide to call the box their home.



I've made sugar syrup for hummingbirds before, but it's like 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.  This syrup was 1 part sugar to 1 part water.  I have a lot of syrup :-)  Keeping it in the fridge.

I had read about something called a "swarm guard" that is placed over the entrance to keep bees from swarming; especially when introducing them to a new hive, so I built three of them.  Once I figured out that I was going to have to use a Boardman feeder at the entrance, the swarm guards had to come off--I'd still like to come up with something really quick to keep them from absconding once they get the queen free from her cage.  I've read that it doesn't happen often, but it can happen, and I've got about $350 in 3 boxes of insects that have wings-----!!!!



Yesterday was finally the day.  The USPS sent an e-mail notification that 3 packages were in the mail on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning I got a call from the Knoxville post office (about 70 miles away) telling me that my bees were there if I was going to "be in the neighborhood" I could pick them up and if not, they'd be in Crab Orchard on Saturday morning.  I opted to wait since I knew the bees had sugar syrup to eat and a queen to keep them occupied.


It started raining about 3 am Saturday morning and a brisk wind was blowing along with the rain when I picked up the bees.  They were put in the shop where I'd go look at them every couple of hours and come back to the computer and "Google" how to install bees in the rain :-)  The forecast was for solid rain for two days and then my schedule would not allow installing them for another day so I was looking for a window in the rain.  It happened about 6:00 pm Saturday evening.

I wasn't able to get pictures of the actual installation, but I might be able to provide a visual for you:

First off, I will say that I detest the leather gloves and will get rubber gloves before I go back into the hive.  When I removed the square piece of wood that covers the syrup can I COULD NOT get a hold of the syrup can and actually dropped the queen cage down into the package of bees--arrgghhhhh!  I retrieved it, saw the queen crawling around in there and tried to wedge the cage between two frames the way I've seen on all the videos I've watched.   That doesn't work very well.  The queen fell to the bottom of the box (again).  Next time I need a thumbtack to attach the strap to a frame so she can safely dangle.    (You can see the white strap that's attached to the queen cage in the center box extending past the cardboard syrup can cover).  I finally took the nylon strap attached to her cage and wedged it between two end bars.

I was using the "no shake" method of putting the package box inside the hive and just letting the bees crawl out.  I put the package in and tilted it on its side with the opening towards the dangling queen and put the top back on.

Now I was nervous--I didn't think that went too well.  So, I got the second package, some thumbtacks, and opened up the next hive to install the bees.  I hate those gloves!  Had trouble getting the can out again, and yes, I dropped the second queen down into the package of bees AGAIN!  Next time I'm not going to take the staple out of the strap holding the queen cage in place until after I get the clumsy syrup can out of the very tight-fitting hole.  I decided to ditch the thumbtack idea and to just lay the queen cage next to the opened package on this one, so that's what I did.

The third one went a little easier.  I didn't drop the queen cage, no bees flew out, and it didn't rain throughout the entire fiasco.

What did I learn during this first beekeeping experience?

  • I need to make sure my hair is pulled back so it doesn't get tangled up in the zipper of the veil,
  • Did I mention I hate the leather gloves?
  • Make sure there are no bees on you when you take off your suit--I did get stung on the chest by a stray bee after I was back in the shop

After I came back into the house I started second-guessing myself and wondering if I had turned the second queen cage upside down so she couldn't be fed, so this morning I peeked and there was a huge wad of bees on the area where the queen cage was placed, so I left it alone.  There were also several bees still in the package so I didn't remove it either.  I didn't think it would be a good idea to get the bees flying around in this crappy weather.

Oh yes, we had fierce thunderstorms during the night with lots of wind.  The first thing I did this morning was make sure none of the hives had blown over, and they were all still in place.

Now I wait.....let me see, 4 days from Thursday means that tomorrow evening I'll check to see if the packages are pretty empty so I can remove them AND it's supposed to be better weather by then--let's keep our fingers crossed that the bees are forgiving of a "newbee-keeper"!


Completing the beehives

So I'm a compulsive list maker......checking tasks off of my lists gives me a feeling of accomplishment and it helps me to not forget things I really want to get done.  One of the wintertime items on the list was to get the hives ready for the bees' arrival in the spring.

The last post was about building the boxes and assembling the frames.  The hives have been sitting on the back porch (in the way, I might add) waiting for me to get back to them.  With the holidays over and the upstairs floor at least nailed down (not finished yet) I was able to get back to the hives.  The quilt is nothing more than a rectangular frame, just slightly (like 1/8";) smaller than the supers.  This facilitates the burlap being stapled to the outside of the quilt and still maintain airflow to the roof cavity.




First off I used a piece of burlap that's about 3 inches larger than the bottom dimension of the quilt.  There just so happened to be a piece of burlap in my fabric stash, so I stapled the selvage edge first along one long side of the quilt.  Then it got stretched really tight and I stapled the other side in a few spots just to hold the fabric tight, then the excess was trimmed and the edge turned under to keep it from raveling.



One of the quilts was fabricated from some scrap oak that was laying around and it was really difficult to get the staples to go all the way in.  It's also quite a bit heavier than the other one, which is made from pine--but---it was scrap.

Here is the hive with the quilt in its proper position--wood shavings go in when the hive gets set up in the apiary.   Bees keep their hives really warm during the winter--I think around 95 degrees or so.  When the warm air hits a cold roof cover the moisture in the air condenses and drips back down onto the bees, which could chill them and kill them.  The quilt absorbs the heat and humidity so condensation doesn't occur, plus it provides insulation from the cold and heat in the summer.  I've read that some people treat the burlap with a flour paste to keep the bees from shredding it.  That will get done closer to "bee-arrival" time.



You can see the burlap stapled to the outer edge of the quilt.  Don't worry, the roof will cover that.....


In fact, the roof covers the entire quilt and part of the top box.

Here is the first completed beehive.  Rough sawmill lumber was used for the roof gable ends because the lumber  purchased from the sawmill wasn't wide enough for the peak of the roof.  There was a board left over from the house siding (hemlock) so I used that.  It soaked up a lot more of the wood sealer than the finished boards.  The roof has a flat board inside that rests on top of the quilt so mice can't get into the nice nest of shavings.  A screened bottom board will allow for ventilation through the hive, and the little ramp at the bottom is for when the bees are tired and they can stumble into the hive (that's what I've read, anyway).  An entrance reducer will be added to keep the opening smaller when necessary or opened up all the way.  I'm not sure about all that yet, but I'm still learning.

I decided to name my hives after the signs of the zodiac--not that I believe any of that--but it made a convenient way to keep the first twelve hives separate for recordkeeping purposes.  A woodburning tool made the name permanent, rather than paint.  The Happy Hoer was born in the sign of Virgo :-)


What WAS I thinking?

Okay, so I got bitten by the "I-wanna-keep-bees" bug last summer.  I've been studying all about them and after pricing  beehives from several different sources, I decided to build my own hives.  It was going to be EXPENSIVE to get two hives set up, and the fact that I'm doing a little different twist on these hives made the decision easier.

A sort-of local sawmill (about 40 miles away) had dressed and kiln dried pine boards that were 1x8x8.  The Subaru veggie wagon was loaded!  The owner of the sawmill ended up giving me several extra boards that were odd lengths--lucky me :)  The lumber has been stacked in the dining room to keep it nice and dry.  Construction began a few days ago:


First, all the boards are cut into the proper lengths for the sides of the boxes.

Then all the boards get ripped to the right width for the medium box depth.  It's easier for me to rip the short boards rather than try to rip a long board.

After getting all the boards cut to size it was time to glue and screw.  I bought some star bit exterior tan-colored screws to fasten the boxes together.  A good smearing of wood glue is applied and clamps to hold the boards in place while fastening is necessary.  A small framing square is very helpful which pilot drilling and inserting screws at the corners.

A word of advice:  Do not cut the tip of your forefinger on a cardboard box while Christmas shopping with your mother the day before attempting this project.  It really makes it harder to do all this detailed work with an "ow-ie" on your finger.  Anyway, as the boxes were completed, they were stacked back in the dining room, only they take up a lot more room than they did as a stack of lumber!

I'm making 6 boxes for each hive and one extra box to make a swarm box for the swarm of bees I'll find next year :)

I also put together an entire case of frames (100) --they are everywhere, just waiting for the boxes to be painted.

Next come the "quilts"......

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