Beef Sampler Boxes from Prineville Honey Bee Haven

 Our sweet mama cow Cookie stopped to pose for a selfie. 

Our sweet mama cow Cookie stopped to pose for a selfie. 

Have you ever considered purchasing a portion of cow from a farmer? For some, the idea of paying for a year's worth of meat is a bit overwhelming. When you stop and think about where it is your meat comes from, you might be easily convinced that buying direct from the farmer is for you.

Our cattle are born on our farm and spend their lives grazing on our pasture. They are hormone free and are cared for throughout the winter. They are fed local hay and alfalfa. If you haven't ever experienced the difference in grass fed beef, we highly suggest it! 

We offer fair pricing for our grass fed beef.  For $5  per pound (including cut and wrap processing fees), you can enjoy our beef. We will help you select packaging sizes, cut options and lean burger percentage that matches your preferences. We truly believe that is fair once you stop and examine what other farms might be charging. 

 One  example  of meat sold by the quality of the cut on a farm similar to ours.  

One example of meat sold by the quality of the cut on a farm similar to ours.  

 Taken from a Consumer Reports article in 2015. 

Taken from a Consumer Reports article in 2015. 

Committing to a lump sum somewhere between $800-$1200 might not be right for your family. I am going to be honest though, if you stop and calculate your grocery bill for beef for the year, you would be shocked at how much more you are actually paying! 

But what if you weren't ready to take this great leap of faith? Well, I have good news for you. I've put together what I call a Beef Sampler Box straight from our farm. The box includes a variety of cuts and offers a chance for families to see what this is all about. 

 I've put together two sampler box choices depending on preference. There are limited supplies, so first come, first served. 

I've put together two sampler box choices depending on preference. There are limited supplies, so first come, first served. 

If you need one last boost to convince you, please read the message I received just today about our beef. 

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As I mentioned above, we have limited supplies of these sampler boxes offered at $125 each. Let me know if you'd like one and it can be delivered here in the Central Oregon area. 

Spring Preparations at Prineville Honey Bee Haven

As the days get longer and warmer, you can't help but dream of days when the garden looks like the image below. It takes a lot of prep work to get there however, and that work starts in February and March here on the farm.  Here's a little peek at what we've been up to. 

 A view of the garden in August. 

A view of the garden in August. 

 Greenhouse prep work starts in February and March. 

Greenhouse prep work starts in February and March. 

During the months of February and March, several projects including garden and greenhouse clean up, cold crop planting, tilling, swarm trap baiting, seed ordering, and many other activities fill our weekends. Just writing this list out could send any reasonable person into a panic! The key to survival however, is taking it one step at a time and remembering how wonderful it feels when it all comes together. 

 Seed tape and the use of Wall-O-Waters help give planting a jump start during the varied weather this time of year.

Seed tape and the use of Wall-O-Waters help give planting a jump start during the varied weather this time of year.

 This is seed tape. Using this planting strategy is very useful for certain types of seeds.

This is seed tape. Using this planting strategy is very useful for certain types of seeds.

Long, dark winter nights are ideal for preparing seed tape. With a little glue, your favorite seeds, strips of paper towel, and some patience, you too can create seed tape. It eliminates the need to thin plants later on, and provides just the right amount of spacing for plants as they develop. I've used this technique for carrots of course, but also for cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and even tomatoes to make planting the small seeds as simple as possible.  

 Prepping the soil for wildflower seed planting is another early Spring project. 

Prepping the soil for wildflower seed planting is another early Spring project. 

 Seedlings emerging in each of the foraging garden beds. 

Seedlings emerging in each of the foraging garden beds. 

Preparations for the honey bee foraging garden typically begin in March. Each of the beds in the 1/4 acre space are weeded, tilled, and seeded for the coming year. The garden will reseed itself, but the dynamic density of flowering we enjoy each year comes from intentional annual seeding. It takes about five pounds of seed to properly prep the foraging areas of our garden. The seed mix includes 18 different types of seed, and we offer the same seed type on our website for anyone interesting in planting for the pollinators. 

 "Baiting" and preparing honey bee swarm traps. 

"Baiting" and preparing honey bee swarm traps. 

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Each Spring we place swarm boxes around the farm in hopes of luring and convincing honey bees to relocate on our property. Tempting the honey bees is more complicated than one might think. The box must be placed at a certain height and face the south. Frames with trace amounts of honey comb are always helpful. A hint of lemon grass essential oil always helps as well! Intrigued? There are even books about the subject. 

 My farm helpers find creative ways to move leaf piles from the garden beds in preparation for planting.

My farm helpers find creative ways to move leaf piles from the garden beds in preparation for planting.

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Onions 

We've reached the end of our onions from last year's garden. The timing seems just right considering Spring onion planting is on the agenda. 

 Planting hanging baskets for a head start on pretty porch flowers. 

Planting hanging baskets for a head start on pretty porch flowers. 

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It isn't all work around here. Thanks to the Easter Bunny, we are proud owners of four new baby chicks. These laying superstars will join the flock once they are big enough to defend themselves.

Sometimes people ask me how we manage to do all of these projects. The honest "secret" is patience, pacing yourself, and trial and error. It helps that we love what we do too. 

Calving Season 2017

 Luna and her baby heifer Hermione. 

Luna and her baby heifer Hermione. 

Over the last few weeks, we've been gifted the miracle of new life here on the farm. Five of the six mama cows we have living here have delivered healthy calves. We are anticipating the arrival of one more any day now. 

The new farm additions bring memories of the previous generations, and a reminder of our deep appreciation in being able to raise cattle the way that we do. The heritage mix cows on our farm live the ultimate life. They are born here, raised on our pasture, and cared for by our family. We interact with them daily, care for them throughout each of the seasons, and we provide a hormone free and pesticide free life.  

 Hermione and Neville

Hermione and Neville

 Mary and Sirius Black

Mary and Sirius Black

 Cho Chang

Cho Chang

 Harry Potter

Harry Potter

 Our sweet Cookie looking absolutely pregnant! We can't wait to meet her calf. 

Our sweet Cookie looking absolutely pregnant! We can't wait to meet her calf. 

Each October, we offer portions of our steers for sale. If you, or someone you know is interested in learning more about purchasing a 1/4 or 1/2 of a beef, please let us know via our Facebook page Prineville Honey Bee Haven or through this website. We are nearly sold out for this year, but we will add you to our waiting list should we sell out. 

Gardening in Central Oregon

 Seedlings grown in our greenhouse: cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. These are BIG 6" plants grown from seed and planted in organic soil without the use of any chemicals.

Seedlings grown in our greenhouse: cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. These are BIG 6" plants grown from seed and planted in organic soil without the use of any chemicals.

I am trying a little experiment this spring. I've had many people reach out to me and ask questions about how this whole gardening business works. When do you plant peas? What is the best type of tomato to grow in Central Oregon? The innate teacher in me gets excited about this of course. People wanting to learn something and try something new... I've decided to share my gardening adventure this year with those who would like to join along. 

 Veggie garden August 2016.

Veggie garden August 2016.

Here I am in my garden last summer. I have a pretty wonderful set up that has taken years to establish. I have an insulated greenhouse, twelve raised beds plumbed for automatic watering, and a disturbingly large collection of seeds. I keep honey bees of course to help with the pollination. Getting my hands in the dirt and harvesting food we've grown here on our farm is my happy place. I keep our children actively involved in the process too. 

 A typical morning harvest from the garden. The colors and products change throughout the season.

A typical morning harvest from the garden. The colors and products change throughout the season.

 Cabbage and broccoli harvest with the very same starts I hope to get in beginning gardener's hands.

Cabbage and broccoli harvest with the very same starts I hope to get in beginning gardener's hands.

Here's my idea in a nut shell: I will provide seedlings for those hoping to join the gardening bandwagon. I've already planted my "cold season" crops and they are thriving in my greenhouse. I planted extras in hopes that I could inspire and help others along the way. A cold season crop is one that tolerates cooler temperatures better than other plants. (Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, onions, etc). I hope to do this same thing for "warm season" crops and pass along starts again to others. (Tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc). My ideal situation is to save others from some of the tough life lessons I've learned over the years and to make novice gardeners feel successful. You CAN do it! 

 August tomatoes from the garden. A rainbow of color. 

August tomatoes from the garden. A rainbow of color. 

So, if you are interested in trying the whole gardening bit, let me know. I am promoting Mother's Day Farm Boxes this week that include the first phase of gardening for the season. You'll not only end up with healthy plant starts loved and cultivated right here on our farm, you'll also have a whole bounty to enjoy with them. Farm boxes include grass fed beef, handcrafted dishcloths, felted coin purses, a pair of gardening gloves, and a little raw honey sampler from our bee hives.

 Mother's Day Farm Boxes 

Mother's Day Farm Boxes 

I promise that you won't be disappointed! You'll have yummy food in your tummy, pretty handmade gifts to enjoy, and a step in the right direction toward growing your own food. See our add on the Facebook page and/or the website. 

 

 

 

Spring Break

Spring time is incredibly busy time on the farm. Its a GOOD kind a busy, but busy none the less. The days get longer and projects appear around every corner. For the last nine days, the littles and I have been busy enjoying a siesta from school and the gift of time to jump start all of our spring projects. My sweetie has played a big part in the weekend warrior events. I am so thankful that he always seems to create the vision I plan out in my head. Where to begin? 

 We relocated a tree on our property to make room for another project later this spring. We are crossing our fingers that this tree will settle itself in it's new honey bee garden location. 

We relocated a tree on our property to make room for another project later this spring. We are crossing our fingers that this tree will settle itself in it's new honey bee garden location. 

In addition to the tree relocation project, we gave the front of our old barn a little face lift. Two identical arbors were built and fastened above the old windows on the front side. We will be relocating four grape vines from our south deck. We are hopeful that they too will thrive in their new home. 

The greenhouse has also been a busy place this week. Cold crop starts planted in February are thriving and the tomatoes are planted. 

 Tomato seeds glued to paper towel scraps make for easy planting. The hardest part is narrowing down the choices. I have room for 24 tomato plants in the garden this year based on how I plotted out each of the beds. 

Tomato seeds glued to paper towel scraps make for easy planting. The hardest part is narrowing down the choices. I have room for 24 tomato plants in the garden this year based on how I plotted out each of the beds. 

The main veggie garden needed some TLC this week too. Each of the 12 beds was cleaned out and amended with fresh potting soil. It took a big flatbed cart at Costco! 

 Three types of onions, carrot seed tape, peas, and heirloom poppy seed flowers were planted this week in certain beds. Knowing when to plant which sorts of crops is critical in Central Oregon and it has taken lots of practice! 

Three types of onions, carrot seed tape, peas, and heirloom poppy seed flowers were planted this week in certain beds. Knowing when to plant which sorts of crops is critical in Central Oregon and it has taken lots of practice! 

 Cold crop seedlings- cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

Cold crop seedlings- cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

 Carrot seed tape- this allows you to plant worry free. No need to pull haphazardly places sprouts. 

Carrot seed tape- this allows you to plant worry free. No need to pull haphazardly places sprouts. 

For those interested in one of our spring farm boxes, I've got a sneak peek of some of the goodies. My talented aunt crafted dish cloths, scrubbers, and beautiful felted coin purses to add to our Mother's Day farm box sales. 

I am still working out the final details of Mother's Day farm boxes, but I have some plans in mind. Because gardening in Central Oregon can be tricky, I've planted some of my most successful varieties of cold crop plants. I will include a seedling plant of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot seed tape to get your own garden started off right. Farm boxes will also have one of each of the handcrafted goodies above and of course our prized beef. I'll share more details when we get closer to Mother's Day.  The "warm season" crops will come later in the year (most likely June). 

 One of my broccoli heads from last year's crop. The farm box seedlings are from this same variety. 

One of my broccoli heads from last year's crop. The farm box seedlings are from this same variety. 

It truly was an action packed "break" at the farm. I wouldn't trade it for a second. I continue to be thankful for my day job and the knowledge that I have my favorite hobbies at home waiting for love and attention after work. Summer will be here before we know it! 

Welcome To The Farm Little One

We welcomed yet another life to the Klann menagerie this weekend. "Pearl" is a bummer lamb that was gifted to us by a wonderful woman of many talents-GD. Pearl's story captured us from the instant we met her in GD's elementary music classroom. 

Pearl's life began on a cold winter day when her mother unexpectedly delivered two twin lambs. GD's husband found them nearly lifeless and partially frozen to the ground a few hours later. The babies were quickly put in a warm bath to stimulate them and revive them. Fortunately for Pearl and her sister, both lambs survived. When GD put the babies back out with the mother, she only accepted one however. Pearl then became what is called a "bummer lamb." Simply put, she will be raised completely away from her mother. 

 Pearl's mother and her accepted twin.

Pearl's mother and her accepted twin.

If you haven't had the pleasure of knowing/working with or having GD as a teacher, it is an experience us fortunate ones will always cherish. Pearl has spent her first days on Earth in GD's classroom. Hundreds of elementary students have had the opportunity to watch her eat, sleep, and frolic from the comfort of the classroom risers. GD has made experiences like this a norm for children for countless years. 

Last night the Klann kids delivered GD a homemade lamb shaped cake and heard all the instructions for taking care of the sweet baby girl. She will continue to spend her days at school during this high needs window of her life, and will travel to and from our farm. Once she is big enough, she will become acquainted with our beloved goats Fern and Mack and become their new roommate. 

 Look at that face! 

Look at that face! 

 Alice the yellow lab sharing her coveted mud room space with the lamb.

Alice the yellow lab sharing her coveted mud room space with the lamb.

 I can't quite tell which one is happier...

I can't quite tell which one is happier...

We thank the amazing GD for entrusting us with this true miracle. Ironically, it seems that Pearl was destined to head this way. Yesterday I glanced at the gorgeous quilt block gifted to us by CS this summer, and I noticed Pearl in the image. Appearing next to the cows and the horse, she seems to already have a place here on our farm. 

We have much to learn about the shearing, hoof trimming, and halter breaking ahead of us. Fortunately, we have amazing people around us to help guide the way. As I say often and TRULY mean, "It's a great day to be a Klann." 

A New "Pet"

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings tradition, good food, time with loved ones, and gift giving. This year, I was gifted a very priceless and very unique gift from a special childhood friend.  My sweet middle school friend RR offered a start from her beloved sourdough starter. Having a sourdough starter has been on my life list for some time, so I jumped at the chance to have some. Meet "Felix," our newest farm pet. 

RR handed me my own start from Felix, tips on how to care for him, and some handwritten recipes to try at home. The start, (a portioned section of her own starter), came in a glass mason jar with a breathable top. I was directed to keep Felix in a relatively warm place at home and to feed him equal parts unbleached flour and tepid water each day. Felix's daily feedings are mixed with a wooden spoon and he does best with unbleached flour. RR also shared that Felix has lived a good life. Starts from him go back over one hundred years. Yes...over 100 years. 

To get a little more background on sourdough, I referred to some books gifted to me by another special someone. When we first moved to the farm, my wonderful mother-in-law passed on two books from her library. In recent conversations with my husband, I discovered that Papa Klann owned a sourdough starter as well, and that he made bread each Sunday for several years. The combination of the informative books and the background from my husband provide obvious motivation to bake sourdough once again at our farm. 

According to one of the books, "In the sourdough yeast-making process, the yeast spores, given the proper host such as flour and warm water, break down the starch into sugar, the fermentation can continue as long as it has nutrients to feed on."  By feeding Felix daily, I can be sure to keep him alive for years to come. The book goes on to say, "On the frontier, a sourdough starter (or sponge, as it is sometimes called) was the most important personal possession a family could have, next to the Holy Bible." Impressive stuff. 

Felix has since found a new vessel to reside in. Over the winter, the starter will stay near the wood burning stove in the living room. This clearly justifies putting him into something pretty!

I will point out that we can also postpone feeding Felix if needed. If we travel somewhere for an extended period of time, Felix can go unfed in the fridge for 30 days. Phew. That's a farm perk worth celebrating, as vacations away require thoughtful planning. With the many mouths to feed and daily watering chores, even considering leaving the farm for any amount of time is tricky business.

Since having Felix these last few weeks, we've made a few batches of sourdough pancakes. One day soon, we will take the time to make a loaf of sourdough bread.  This is a much more time consuming process, but well worth it in the end I am sure. I have some inherited cast iron pots and pans that need a good elbow grease cleaning. Once finished, we hope to make a batch of bread as big as the one pictured below. 

 Eleanor and our first bread loaf using the artisan bread making technique. Now that's a big loaf of bread!   

Eleanor and our first bread loaf using the artisan bread making technique. Now that's a big loaf of bread!

 

The Vanishing Of The Bees

 Signs of a healthy hive: entrance activity and full pollen baskets.

Signs of a healthy hive: entrance activity and full pollen baskets.

We've experienced another beekeeping first on on the farm. We lost our first hive. Honestly, it has taken me some time to process. I've gone through all kinds of emotions... shock, sadness, frustration, confusion, and finally acceptance. I haven't had the words to really write about it because before I arrived at "acceptance," I felt like sharing the news meant I had a beekeeping fail. Silly I know. 

Here's the thing... I always knew that all beekeepers lose bees at some point. I knew that the rates of hive losses are high across the nation. The problem is I am a perfectionist and a major competitor. What do you mean one hive of our bees left? I love them! They can't leave!

After grappling with the variety of emotions I've felt since we discovered one of our hives left, I started reflecting more on the weeks leading up to our discovery.  Did I see bees activity at the entry of the hive? YES. I thought for sure the high activity in February meant that the girls had survived the winter and that they were busy taking cleansing flights and preparing for the new foraging season. Did I stop to check for pollen going into the hive? NO. There wasn't anything blooming at that point of the year, so I wasn't concerned about that. Pollen going into the hive can be an indicator that there are babies to feed in the hive. February is pretty early for any major activity with the queen and new brood. Did I take time to inspect frames to see if the queen was laying and that honey supplies were enough to make it through to foraging season?  The weather didn't lend itself to a warm enough, wind free day to inspect. Did the hive have a funny smell to it? NO. HMMMMM.... 

Eric and I did a full inspection on the hive during the first few weeks in March. We announced ourselves to the ladies buzzing about and began looking at frames. Right away we noticed lots of honey remained. Good news... the girls didn't need all that we left and there might be some for us to harvest. We kept going across the frames...empty frame, empty frame, empty frame. Where were they? I quickly opened the screened bottom board on our hive and there weren't any bees there. During a normal inspection there are a few dead bees on the bottom board. There weren't any. Where were they? Eric and I just looked at each other. Who were these bees flying around us? 

The reality hit me like a freight train. These weren't my girls buzzing my head as we inspected. These were ROBBER BEES. Our hive was being robbed and our very first rescue swarm had picked up and left. When did they go? Why did they go? 

 

 Tiny puncture holes in these capped cells are from varroa mites leaving the cells. All hives have varroa mites. The tiny white dots are varroa scat. The shiny cells toward the top in the image are unfinished honey from last season. There are also tiny pieces of crystallized honey. 

Tiny puncture holes in these capped cells are from varroa mites leaving the cells. All hives have varroa mites. The tiny white dots are varroa scat. The shiny cells toward the top in the image are unfinished honey from last season. There are also tiny pieces of crystallized honey. 

More reflecting, more considering. No bees on the bottom board, no bees inside. Evidence of varroa mites, but not lots of evidence. No varroa mites to count on my mite board. Plently of left over honey, so starvation wasn't an option. What happened? 

We removed the remaining capped honey frames and sealed up the hive. As we were preparing to leave and my confusion was mounting, I decided to look on the bottom side of our hive. As I leaned over, I felt a combination of shock and "ah-ha!" As you know, we use a long bodied style hive coined a Valhalla hive. It allows me to work with the bees with my back limitations. No heavy lifting, easy to inspect, bee friendly, and so very beautiful. As I looked at the bottom of the hive, I could see that the bottom slider drawers had not been completely closed and were not flush with the back wall. The poor bees had robbers with complete free reign to their hive and honey stores! They couldn't protect themselves because of the large opening I had inadvertently left! Was that why they left? 

 There are two drawers on either side of the hive. The top drawer has a screened bottom board for the bees to walk across. The second drawer is a mite count board. It is white and helps to quickly spot mites and do a count during inspections. The mites do not travel back up through the screened bottom board. 

There are two drawers on either side of the hive. The top drawer has a screened bottom board for the bees to walk across. The second drawer is a mite count board. It is white and helps to quickly spot mites and do a count during inspections. The mites do not travel back up through the screened bottom board. 

We brought the hive into the shop and Eric made a few modifications to the drawers to prevent that from happening again. We cleaned off the built up propolis (bee glue) that the bees had covered the drawer slides with. In the future I will be very intentional to keep excess propolis off the drawers. A once thriving, busy, strong hive was now reduced to an empty cavity. Did my bees abscond? Was this colony collapse? 

I've been doing some reading online since all of this happened, and I have read countless stories about beekeepers losing their bees. As my beekeeping friend says, "you want to bee a bee keeper, not a bee buyer!" So many new beekeepers try their hand at beekeeping, purchase a bee package, and end up losing their bees for one reason or another. If you try again, you truly have to call yourself a bee buyer rather than a beekeeper. The honesty of that statement just makes me giggle. 

 Little Emmett, my mentor and Valhalla hive designer, and our first hive. 

Little Emmett, my mentor and Valhalla hive designer, and our first hive. 

I haven't ever planned to purchase bees for many reasons and I don't plan on purchasing one to replace our empty hive. Not only is it late in the season to find a honey bee supplier, I want to have bees adept to living in Central Oregon. I don't want exhausted and unhealthy bees from a supplier out of state. That means honey bees native to our area. Honey bees aren't actually native at all, but I want to keep bees that have adapted to our climate, winters, and weather patterns. For me, I can get these type of bees two ways: capturing a swarm, or splitting one of my other hives. I am secretly hoping to do both this year!

 Our first swarm catch on our property. Beeatrice and crew landed in our vegetable garden.

Our first swarm catch on our property. Beeatrice and crew landed in our vegetable garden.

 Eleanor and Eric celebrating our swarm catch last spring.

Eleanor and Eric celebrating our swarm catch last spring.

Like I mentioned before, I've experienced all sorts of emotions related to losing our first hive. The biggest emotion honestly has been feeling sad. I've decided to consider this a true learning experience rather than focus on the sad aspects. I choose to believe that maybe some lucky beekeeper in Central Oregon discovered a swarm a month or so ago and Flora has settled into a new hive with good caretakers. I also choose to be humbled by the reality felt by so many beekeepers who lose hives. Remembering that nature is always ultimately in control sits much better in my heart. Honey bees are a creature worthy of our utmost respect and no matter how much we believe we can offer them and tame them, they go as they choose. I won't ever know for sure why they chose to leave, but I continue to appreciate the beauty of our precious honey bees. 

February on the Farm

 Honey bee garden clean up in February.

Honey bee garden clean up in February.

Warm February days bring with them big clean up projects on the farm. These little farm hands have been busy helping prepare the honey bee garden for spring. We've burned, tilled, pulled sunflower stalks, created watering holes for the honey bees, and eagerly watched for signs of life in our honey bee hives. With each passing day, farm life brings a project. 

 Eric burning wildflower remnants in the garden.

Eric burning wildflower remnants in the garden.

One of our first projects this year in the bee garden was to remove the plant debris from the garden space. My sweetie hooked up his handy-dandy burning tool and took to the task. The smell of burn piles is prevalent in farm country this time of year. 

My sidekicks helped pull sunflower stalks last weekend as part of the spring cleaning regiment. We left the stalks all winter to help provide homes for native pollinators in the area. Because we know pollinators sometimes nest in these stalks, we were careful not to disturb them too much. These sunflower stalks now reside in a nice pile in the pasture until potential nesting bumblebees have a chance to hatch in warmer weather. We will not burn these stalks until spring hatching has run its cycle.

 A honey bee watering hole.

A honey bee watering hole.

Warm days above 55 degrees (roughly) bring honey bee activity. After taking much needed cleansing flights, honey bees set out to find pollen, nectar, and a good water source. If you are a beekeeper, it is IMPERATIVE that you provide your girls with a place to get a drink. if you don't, the neighbor's hot tub or dog water dish will become the go-to place for the bees. This is not ideal! Your neighbor will not be pleased, you will fight a constant battle with the girls determined to bring resources home, and perhaps most tragic, the honey bees will drown in high numbers. 

The watering hole pictured above is a very simple and effective option for your bees. A bird bath is of course a great option for the bees. If you don't want to spend much money, you can put something together like the picture above. This is an inverted metal garbage can top. It is filled with rocks and colorful marbles. The rocks and marbles provide a safe place for the girls to stand without fear of downing. We added blue rocks this year because we know the girls like that color. The water doesn't have to be really clean, but it does need to be a reliable source. I add a drop of lemon grass oil every so often to remind them that it is there. If you don't keep bees, but would like to help them, maybe consider providing them a nice place to stop for a drink. The bees thank you ahead of time. 

Another routine this time of year is to see what is blooming and providing resources for the girls. Here on our farm we have crocus coming up and hellebore. Both plants are early bloomers in Central Oregon. Our girls are also working willow trees this time of year. 

 Notice the full pollen baskets on the girl near the bottom of the landing board. Also, look at the color variation of the pollen on the girl higher on the board. Pollen comes in many color shades. Variation in color means there are foraging options for the girls.

Notice the full pollen baskets on the girl near the bottom of the landing board. Also, look at the color variation of the pollen on the girl higher on the board. Pollen comes in many color shades. Variation in color means there are foraging options for the girls.

Watching the girls activity is a treat on so many levels for a beekeeper. Although we are not "out of the woods" yet with the potential loss of a hive, February activity brings hope. Because the girls are bringing in pollen, I can presume they are feeding brood (babies) inside. The weather isn't warm enough to fully inspect the hive and check for active laying by the queen, but I can breathe a cautious sigh of relief that these girls may just have made it through the winter. 

This sweet girl found herself a load. I watched her approach for a landing and then make a break for this resting place before she entered the hive. With sporadic wind changes and fluctuations of sunshine hitting the hive, foraging is tough on these girls. They simply get exhausted trying to provide for the hive against the variation of the elements outside. Eventually she made it inside with her basket of goodies and this beekeeper did a little cheer. Wouldn't it be nice if all of us had the drive and dedication to work tirelessly for the greater good of all? 

Greenhouse Prep

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Spring is knocking on the door here at the farm. The month of February brings a big start to the gardening season. This month involves lots of cleaning, organizing, planning and even planting for the upcoming months.

I am very fortunate here on the farm to have an insulated greenhouse. Honestly, this is a game changer with Central Oregon gardening.  On a sunny day in January or February, temps inside our greenhouse can reach the upper 80's or even 90 degrees on a windy, cold 45 degree day. Central Oregon sunshine is powerful!  With that influx of temperatures, consistent monitoring is required. I have another gardening perk besides the actual greenhouse. My sweetie wired in automatic fans last Valentine's Day to ensure that precious seedlings don't overheat if we are away from the farm. 

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Our greenhouse is roughly 500 square feet. We have shelving all along the exterior walls, a bank of shelving through the center, and a large 3x5 foot permanent raised bed on the southern side. The floor is paved concrete, and we've wired permanent outlets and lights inside. Our last major project inside the greenhouse is to add an automatic drip watering system. Adding auto watering will ensure that life inside the greenhouse continues on if our energy is focused somewhere else on the farm. The odds are good with that...there are many things going on around here!

 The thermostat on the left works with the outlets inside the greenhouse. When temperatures dip below freezing inside, the small, temporary space heater kicks on to protect seedlings on cold mornings. 

The thermostat on the left works with the outlets inside the greenhouse. When temperatures dip below freezing inside, the small, temporary space heater kicks on to protect seedlings on cold mornings. 

 Red wiggler worms make their home in this raised bed space as well.

Red wiggler worms make their home in this raised bed space as well.

 Pots and seedling trays stacked ready for planting this season. 

Pots and seedling trays stacked ready for planting this season. 

 Center aisle shelving ready for seedling trays later this season

Center aisle shelving ready for seedling trays later this season

I want to emphasize that this greenhouse space has taken years to create. YEARS. Unless you have a limitless budget, it will take time to get to a place where you have these resources. My first years of gardening were filled with many mistakes and tremendous effort. I lacked the right space, the right soil, the right seeds, the right knowledge. I had to make mistakes, I had to read, and I had to be okay with trial and error over the learning process. If I could give one piece of advice to any aspiring gardener, it would be to have patience! 

Gardening in Central Oregon is like no other location. Our warm, bright sunny days are followed by drastic temperature dips at night. Our growing season is much shorter than many other areas. Gardening here takes years of refinement and the right tools to be successful. Many, many, trials and errors have brought me to consider msyelf a pseudo-confident gardener. I know that this is a forever learning process... that is part of the fun!

 Seed starting mix is much different than planting soil. 

Seed starting mix is much different than planting soil. 

 Seedling mix is airy and light. Seed starts aren't restricted by the weight of the soil as they germinate.

Seedling mix is airy and light. Seed starts aren't restricted by the weight of the soil as they germinate.

 Potting soil also comes in a variety of ways. Bottom line: you get what you pay for. 

Potting soil also comes in a variety of ways. Bottom line: you get what you pay for. 

Now that you've had the grand tour, here's what is happening at Prineville Honey Bee Haven. My space has been organized and inventoried. I have start up supplies ready to go and early season seeds selected (more on seeds another day). 

 Seed tape is a nice option for small seeds. If you want a time saver, seed tape works nicely to ensure proper seed spacing and a quick planting method.

Seed tape is a nice option for small seeds. If you want a time saver, seed tape works nicely to ensure proper seed spacing and a quick planting method.

 Early season seed options.

Early season seed options.

Thus far in the greenhouse, I have started several different things. We have onion, lettuce, spinach, chard, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage started. The onion, lettuce, spinach, and chard were planted directly in the greenhouse raised bed. The remaining seeds were planted in individual seed pots. They will germinate, sprout, and establish themselves in the greenhouse over the next few months. In early April, they will be transplanted outside. 

Perennial flower seeds have also been started in the greenhouse. Perennials take a LONG time to germinate and to establish from seed. I have to give these seeds a big head start in order to plant them for the honey bee garden and see flowers this season. Honey bees like clustered plantings of flowers. They like to forage on one sort of plant until they have taken all of the pollen and nectar that given plant has to offer. By planting these seeds in the greenhouse, I can transplant them in clusters later in the growing season. 

 Honey bee perennial favorites that need a big head start in the growing season. 

Honey bee perennial favorites that need a big head start in the growing season. 

 Image credit: friends of the earth

Image credit: friends of the earth

There you have it...the beginnings of our gardening adventure this year at Prineville Honey Bee Haven. I emphasize the word adventure and I add the word process. Gardening is exciting, time consuming, rewarding, but not instantaneous. Setting realistic goals with your budget in mind is incredibly important. You can garden on any budget. You can garden in many different spaces. You can garden with various knowledge and skill sets. The most important thing to remember is that you have to take all of those pieces into account when you decide to try it.

If you are looking for a hobby that you can share with your family for years to come, gardening may be something for you to consider. Watching the honey bees help with the pollination process is magic. Nothing compares to harvesting your own food and then sitting around the table sharing it with those you love. The food to fork experience is a worthy contender on your bucket list.