Archive for the ‘beekeeping’ Category

for those of you who haven’t heard the news, you need to read this article. and if you haven’t any elderberry medicine yourself, you should get stalked up at your local healthfood store or online source, such as the essential herbalist, tina sam. in a hurry here tonight as getting late, but there are other lovely herbalists whose blogs are on my blog roll who have elderberry for sale, so if you are in need, please check it out:) herbal and honey hugs all around

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Well, it rained this morning, and is still overcast. Not an ideal day for checking hives, but.. I have delayed this inspection for 2 weeks, and needed to see where things are at. Got everything laid out. My notebook, camera, hive tool, smoker, shredded aspen for smoker fuel (way too wet to use leaves), and the tool i use to hang on the side of the hives, after opened, to place frames on.


The first hive I decided to check was the pink hive.


oh and yes, there is lots of overgrown raspberry vines, etc. creeping amongst the hives.

when i opened the honey super (the top box) i didn’t see much activity on the inner cover, nor on the top of the frames

HPIM5631 HPIM5632

I started pulling out these honey frames to see how things were looking. the first frame i took out is actually number 10 as i work from right to left on this hive (as i have the table i work on to the right of the hive). hmmm not much going on with number 10 frame, a bit of  of capped honey on the back side


ninth frame had a bit more capped on both sides and more nectar.


the eighth frame (below) had a bit more going on. you can see some capped honey and more nectar both sides of the frame.


the seventh frame (both of next two pics) had even more capped honey and nectar both sides.



and the sixth frame (below looked good)


the fifth, fourth,third second and first kind of were just like if you looked at the above pics in reverse. the bees generally work the middle frames first and then work out to the sides . so this honey box looked the right way, but, for the really great nectar flow we have had, one would hope for more. our weather has been so rainy this year, i am sure that alot of days, especially with the morning rains, the plants had their nectar washed out. on the bright pretty days, the bees have been gathering lots of nectar, but i am sure have been storing a great lot of it in the brood box areas (the bottom two boxes). the brood box honey is the first source of food for the bees, and days when they are forced to stay in and eat but not gather, depletes their stores and these are the frames the bees first refill before going up to the honey supers to store. so while it doesn’t look like i will be able to harvest another full super box of honey from this hive, before winter, the fact that there is this many nearly full frames, encourages me to think that the girls are still a couple steps ahead. so i am fine with this hive right now. i don’t bother to get down in the brood boxes, at this time, as i am building a new box to replace the very bottom box of this hive right now. after it is put together and painted i will bothering this hive enough next weekend swapping the new brood box for the old. when i first started beekeeping i started with used equipment and that old brood box on this hive is pretty beat up around the edges with chunks of wood out etc. i want to snug up things a bit for the girls with the new box.

so off to the yellow hives inspection. a few more bees active in this hives honey super.


not much going on except some nectar storage on the first frame


most of the frames in this hives honey super looked like this. lots of nectar, but not alot of capped honey.



so same thing as the pink hive. the rains are effecting the everything and i might end up with about 10 more frames of honey between the two hives. i will let you know when i do my final harvest and get the bees snugged for winter.

i keep these cool rocks on my behive lids. my grandson evan painted them for me a couple years back.


last night my darling 11 year old granddaughter alexis. we had alot of fun! this is grandpa and her at the video store. they wrestled the whole way through the store!


big herbal and honey hugs to each of you who visit comfrey cottages!

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Today I decided the time was right to decant the comfrey oil, st. john’s wort oil, and the yarrow tincture. I don’t know why but the picture color is not the color i saw with the st. john’s wort oil and the yarrow tincture! both were a lovely deep ruby color but turned out purplish in these pics!



trust me, they are a gorgeous ruby color. will have to figure out why the color in the pics are different than in real life. any suggestions?

the comfrey oil was a lovely green shade.


all of them smelled wonderful! so earthy, and wholesome!

the comfrey oil and the st. john’s wort oil are both going to be used in healing salves. the comfrey for the little scrapes and cuts we all get in are day to day lives. i will add a bit of thyme oil to the comfrey oil salves also. comfrey heals wounds so quickly that if there is a bit of infection present, it could actually seal the infection in, so the thyme will help prevent this with its antiseptic properties. the st; john’s wort oil  will help with the bruises, scrapes, nerve pain, and also for the basis for sunscreen. when i use these in salves i will be using some of the wonderful beeswax from the first honey harvest. this is the large baking dish full i have from the wax that has been draining since the harvest a couple weeks ago. most of the honey is drained out of it now.


i will gently melt this wax in a pot over boiling water until it is smooth and i can pour it into individual containers. some to mix with the healing salves and then some i am going to try something new. my beautiful daughter michelle is a diabetic and just plagued by dry skin. i am going to try a couple different oils added to the beeswax to see if i can make her a good moisture rich skin salve/ lotion. thinking to see how organic coconut oil mixes with the beeswax for one.

so more alchemy happening here at comfrey cottages courtesy of our bee friends. both for the lovely beeswax and also the lovely plants i am working with. will post more as i work with these things with pictures also.

big herbal and honey hugs to all of you who visit here at comfrey cottages!

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whoo whoo! starting the honey harvest! below is a picture of a capped honey frame taken from one of the yellow hives honey supers(the box which holds 10 frames for the bees to build wax on and store nectar in). isn’t it a gorgeous white?!


now i am harvesting using the crush and strain method. first i remove a frame of capped honey (the bees flap their little wings and evaporate some of the moisture from the nectar and when the moisture level is right, they seal each cell with wax, thus the name, capped honey). i am using a glass dish with a silicon flexible mat in it. first i cut off the honey comb from the frame


then i use a pestle to crush the wax and honey.


i then pick up the silicon mat and let it all ooze into my new bucket with a strainer in it. this bucket also has a gate at the bottom for using when time to bottle the honey that has filtered through the screen.


these following pics are close ups of the bucket and the screen



when i am thinking i am close to capacity i will put the bucket in the sun with a lid on it with a brick on the lid!

very excited as this is the first year i am going out on my own from the normal way of beekeeping in my area. i did no supplemental sugar feedings and went to foundationless frames, and of course, no chemical intervention or brood building patties etc, so… i can now say my beekeeping methods are organic! the bees did a beautiful job of creating their own wax and the honey is light and delicious! i will keep you posted on how much i actually get harvested and bottled. thinking to make some herbal infused honey with some of it.

the harvested wax will be put to good use in herbal salves, which i will tell you about when the time comes. good fall/winter time activity.

when i have cut the comb off the frames i am just leaning them into another pan to finish dripping and then i will save the frames to use next year! i won’t trim off the excess wax on them as with foundationless frames,  you really need to leave a little on the frame so the bees will hopefully cooperate and build their comb in the direction i need to easily harvest from! lol

big thanks to wendy at midwest green for turning me on the live writer as this post looks alot nicer than previous ones!

huge herbal hugs to all who visit comfrey cottages:)

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awwww my sweet melissa officinalis! harvested some this week and steeped 1 part of the lemon balm to 3 parts boiling water. this infusion can be strained and used for lovely teas, jellies, sorbets and other lovely things. i am just going to freeze some to use as i have the time and the inclination for using it in jellies. making lemon balm popsicle for those times when the kids are wild. lemon balm/melissa is a wonderful calming herb. humming the allman brothers song melissa all the while working with this lovely herb

raspberries are ripening daily now! washing, and then freezing them on trays to be put in bags in freezer to use later too. freezing them on the trays first keeps them from all sticking in a big clump in freezer bags. makes it convenient also, to just reach in the bag and take a handful as needed to add to fruit salads, etc. have the prince song raspberry beret flowing through my mind while harvest these berries!lol

checked the hives and found they are both ready for new honey supers. put one on the yellow hive and cobbling together the frames for the new one for the pink hive (the newest bees). the yellow hive had all their honey frames mostly capped. lovely white wax there! the pink hive honey super still hadn’t finished capping their honey is why i chose to go ahead and put the prepared new box on the yellow hive. figured i still had a day or two to finish putting together this other box for the pink hive.

peeking down in between the frames i pull out i can usually get a good idea how many frames are already capped and if they are ready for a new super.

so what are you doing in your gardens dear friends? big hugs to all who visit comfrey cottages

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well i did a brief check on the hives today. last weekend i gave the new hive, the pink one, its first honey super, and the yellow last year hive its second. the pink hive hasn’t done much in theirs yet, but the yellow hive was pretty busy. no capped honey yet, though, so there is pleanty of time to put a third honey super on it.
i have a gift for you all. gerry at the global swarming honeybee blog has posted this link to some awesome bee pictures from around the world. browse the bees by topics such a queen, honey, apiculture at that link, and visit bees and bee keeper/honey gatherers at this link.
my friend at midwest green blog, and i were talking about bees and gardening and we both have alot on our plates anyway, and are both trying to live our lives as organically as we can. she came up with a cute phrase, benign neglect. neither one of us do things like pull up creeping charlie till he becomes too big of a pest, figuring he is a living mulch to keep tender plants warm and to help seeds germinate in the spring. and neither of us want to interfer too much with our bees lives. that is why this morning isn’t too exciting to tell you about my inspection. i am not keeping bees for monetary gain. i just like bees and it is nice if i can get a bit of honey for family use and maybe a few gifts. so all i did this morning is smoke them slightly, take off their roofs and gently pull a few frames up a bit, just to make sure they still had plenty of work to do on the honey supers they have. then i just closed them up and left them be. i don’t see the sense in me taking their houses apart and breaking into their most sacred areas, the brood chamber aka bee nursery, unless i really suspect a problem. i know i would take affront to a giant going in my nursery! bees have been about the business of being bees for eons and i really like that phrase “benign neglect”. just a peek weekly and let them be bees! you know, i really don’t want a swarm as it delays honey production by a month or so, but even swarms are useful and i give them my blessing if they choose to do so. swarms take the old bee with them, and alot of mites and other nasties too and gives a hive a new start, in a way, with a fresh queen and young blood so to speak. in the meantime, the most i need to do is to watch to see if they are filling their honey supers, or if they need another one and let them be! that is why we are so blessed to live in an age when we have access to the sites that gerry posted. we can see the intricacies that go on in the dark of the hive without having to stir up our own bees!lol big hugs to all who visit comfrey cottages 🙂

oh, btw, the little guy in the pic is my oldest son jesse’s boy colin. he is showing off his very own first pet (the family has 3 cats and 2 dogs). meet bob (in honor of sponge bob) the beta! lol

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I am totally psyched!! when it was time to put the second brood box on the new beehive, i decided to go with the foundationless frames. this is so cool folks, as it is a more organic and cheaper way to keep bees. follow the link for a good explanation about foundationless frames. i was taught i needed to buy boxes of preformed wax and this is not necessary at all folks! these pics of how my bees are doing in just a week building their own wax. truthfully, they are building their own much quicker than they ever drew out the premade foundation. in the picture where you can see the bees hanging in a line down that is called festooning. that is what they do when they are making wax! super cool! when you explore the link you will find there are several ways to get your bees started in the right direction. this first time i just used some leftover wax foundation and cut it down and just put a bit in the top of each frame and crossed my fingers. now that i see how well it works and how quick the bees work on their own, i am going to do the popsicle starters next time! hugs to everyone who visits comfrey cottages 🙂

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worked diligently to get the second super ready and installed on the new hive yesterday. doing something new this year folks. i am going to foundationless frames in the new hive. i will post about that soon. pretty excited about it! so i was in the gardens all day working on this project, so got to see some cool wildlife flitting in and out amongst the new flowers and around the pond. there were little baby goldfinch fledglings flying from the bleeding hearts, to the pond and all around. the carpenter bees were really busy too! been seeing a pair of blue jays every day so figured they nested close. there was a robin fighting with a blue jay yesterday, and my neighbor found some robin eggs in his yard. well i finally located the blue jay nest in my pine tree and i have a suspicion that the jays outsed the robins eggs and took over the nest! whenever the jays aren’t in the nest i kept catching the robin up there looking around. jays eat bees and they keep sitting on the fence where the hives are and i can see them snatching a few. hope everyone had a beautiful mothers day! hugs 🙂

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saturday, my brother eric and granddaughter taylor and i went to my friend ron’s house to pick up our new nucs. eric and i both got one. ron goes down to florida and works at a bee farm there for a few weeks each spring, and then brings back in his truck nucs for all of us who have ordered them. these bees are carniolans and i just love them. very hard workers and gentle too! within an hour of being hived these girls were busily bringing in pollen. it was so much fun as it was taylors first time getting to help and she had a blast! she also spotted the queen for me. this year the queen is marked with a green dot. each year is a different color. after we got the bees hived we made some more violet jelly! seems everyone wants a jar to try and i gotta get cracking and get some more made to keep up with the demand! lol love and hugs to everyone who visits here at comfrey cottages!!

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just thought i would share a few more pics from the pink hive. in the one you will see lots of little bee butts sticking up from the cells. you typically see this in hives that have starved out. little beasties just dying while trying to find food. but in the other pics you will see there was just tons of honey, both uncapped and capped still in the hive! another indication that this poor little community had just lost too many members to keep warm enough to even search around their own town for food. so sad! trying to focus on the positive that at least the yellow hive is strong. also, to be thankful for all the plants that are emerging in the garden!

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