Bees

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. 

Greenhouse Prep

DSC00001.JPG

 

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. 

DSC00006.JPG

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. 

Eldora's Lefse

The tools you need to make lefse: lefse pan, turning stick, ricer, rolling pin and cloth.

The tools you need to make lefse: lefse pan, turning stick, ricer, rolling pin and cloth.

Today on the farm we made lefse in honor of my sweet grandmother Eldora Mae. For as long as I can remember, lefse (think potato tortilla) has been a tradition of the holiday season. Taking a fresh piece of lefse, spreading butter, cinnamon and sugar, and finally folding the tasty concoction together is synonymous with the holidays. Today I made lefse with our two children to honor tradition and my Grandma Eldora.

Let me introduce my grandmother first before I begin describing the process of lefse making. Eldora Mae lives in the Midwest and I admire her beyond measure.  She is smart, well read, hard working, courageous, and she encompasses all that you can imagine in a grandmother. "Five foot two, eyes are blue..." a song she would sing to us when we were young. Eldora really is all of 5' 2" tall, but you wouldn't know it based on her work ethic and absolute presence in a room. She has a contagious laugh, an aura of absolute kindness and a love for life. Although 2,000 + miles separate us, her influence on my life easily spans the distance between us.

I thank Eldora for my love of gardening, my daily ritual of hanging clothes on the line,  my frugality, my creative side, and my steadfast determination to adhere to her advice, "Sarah, you must learn how to do EVERYTHING on your own." Be "self-sufficient" she would say to me. On more than one occasion she would remind me how important is was to be able to rely on myself no matter what. In all honesty, Eldora has given me much more than a character list. I am thankful every day for her presence in my life and for the gifts she has shared. 

The process of making lefse isn't too difficult. If you've ever made tortillas before, the idea is the same. The Scandinavian culture took the Spanish culture's Masa and replaced it with potatoes. The harder part of making lefse is narrowing down an actual recipe. You see, when you ask Eldora what her recipe is for lefse, she says something like, "you put potatoes, milk and sugar through the ricer." She doesn't tell you how MUCH of the ingredients you need. Recipes are done by "feel" and "taste" rather than quantified amounts. She then follows each sentence with a "you do" affirmation. When I was able to actually get some sort of final measurable quantity, Eldora validates my work with a "yah, you betcha," in true Midwest fashion.  Did I mention how much I love her yet? 

Lefse on the griddle. 

Lefse on the griddle. 

Begin by peeling and boiling the potatoes. I started with about 12 medium sized potatoes thinking that I was doubling the recipe I was given. After the potatoes have softened, drain them and run them through the ricer to get a nice smooth consistency.  To ensure that the measurements are in balance,  double check how many cups the potatoes actually make. It was about 8 cups of potatoes for this particular batch. (On a side note, I use a ricer on occasion to separate the honey from the wax comb. Works like a charm!) 

Once the potatoes are smooth, add milk, sugar, and butter to the mix. I replaced the oil in Grandma's recipe with actual butter. If you were to stop at this point in the recipe and taste the potatoes, you would have a subtly sweet mashed potato mix. 

Next, add the flour. Most recipes call for 1/2 cup flour for each cup of  riced potatoes. Carefully mix, mix, mix and then knead, knead, knead the dough to create a bread-like consistency. I ended up adding more flour to my mix because of the sticky nature of my original batch. I also used whole wheat flour instead of traditional white enriched flour. This way, all that sugar and butter slathered on the finished product is "healthy," considering I used whole wheat!

Emmett with his lefse stick ready to flip the lefse. 

Emmett with his lefse stick ready to flip the lefse. 

Now comes the almost favorite part- the stick flip. The idea of a stick, a little poking and something hot is right up our son's alley. The dough is separated into small golf ball size pieces and rolled out onto a flowered surface. 

It is important to keep the surface well floured and to roll the dough out very thin. The lefse sticks pick up the flattened pieces and make transporting them to the grill much easier. 

Once the pieces have been flipped and cooked on both sides, the lefse is left to cool. Of course it is important to have a few obligatory "test" pieces to ensure a quality product. This part is the best part of the whole adventure and the kids were in full support of multiple samples! The lefse is stored in the refrigerator and must be eaten within a few days. 

Eleanor gave it a thumbs up!

Eleanor gave it a thumbs up!

For as long as I can remember, lefse has been a staple of the holiday season. I am thankful for all of the times my grandmother walked me through the process and I cherish being able to do the same thing with our two sweet kids. We may add a little honey bee flair this year and see how lefse and a drizzle of honey go together. I'm guessing that would taste quite wonderful!

Seed Saving at Prineville Honey Bee Haven

Heritage Marigold Seeds

Heritage Marigold Seeds

Saying goodbye to something that you love can be painful. Honestly, I try to avoid it as much as possible. Because I love all that lives and grows here on the farm, my favorite flowers are no exception to the, "do not say goodbye category."

Enter in...seed saving. Yes, I find great joy in saving seeds from my favorite flowers, vegetables, and fruits on the farm. It takes some time and effort, but like I said... I don't like saying goodbye. 

Jarrahdale/Carving Pumpkin cross 2015.

Jarrahdale/Carving Pumpkin cross 2015.

Exhibit A: This beautiful pumpkin grew on the farm this last season. Thanks to our sweet honey bees, it was a cross pollination success. It appears that a honey bee visited the flower of a Jarrahdale pumpkin and then came over to see a carving pumpkin flower. The results- this gorgeous specimen. I saved some seeds from it of course, hoping next year's pollination will deliver a close repeat offender. I know that I can't bank on it because of pollination variables, but I will be hopeful. 

We all know that pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. The inside, the outside, the seeds, the smell, all can vary pumpkin to pumpkin. Some smell like freshly peeled cucumber when you open them. Others smell like things I'd rather not mention. The color range is so vast with pumpkins, and the purpose is so varied as well. We grow pumpkins for their colors and pretty autumn decor. We also grow pumpkins for Halloween carving and seed roasting. The most useful pumpkins we grow however, are the pie pumpkins. Having fresh pumpkin on hand for recipes is quite useful year round. 

Some pumpkin varieties have very "stringy" insides and limited seeds.

Some pumpkin varieties have very "stringy" insides and limited seeds.

To save the seeds from a pumpkin is a pretty straight forward task. Cut the pumpkin open and remove all of the seeds you hope to keep. 

Seven seed varieties for next year's planting.

Seven seed varieties for next year's planting.

Seeds drying for several days on the counter. 

Seeds drying for several days on the counter. 

Sorting seeds

Sorting seeds

Once the seeds have been cleaned and sorted, they need to sit out and dry for several days. The moisture must be out of the seeds before they are stored over the winter. It is important to remove any underdeveloped seeds (top), broken seeds (right), and to keep only the fully developed seeds. 

After the seeds are dried, we store them in the refrigerator until spring. This process is called "stratification," and it mimics nature's winter. 

Seeds will be packaged in envelopes and labeled according to contents. Seeds will be available in the spring of 2016.

Seeds will be packaged in envelopes and labeled according to contents. Seeds will be available in the spring of 2016.

Luna, Patch and Mary eager for pumpkin treats.

Luna, Patch and Mary eager for pumpkin treats.

Seed saving wouldn't be complete around here if the rest of the family didn't get in on it. Left over pumpkin found its way into the pasture for the cows, the goat pen, and the chicken coop. Pumpkin for everyone! 

Calendula seeds for next year headed to the refrigerator. The bees love these in the fall.

Calendula seeds for next year headed to the refrigerator. The bees love these in the fall.

Sunflowers- a honey bee favorite.

Sunflowers- a honey bee favorite.

Heritage marigolds in bloom.

Heritage marigolds in bloom.

Colorful reminders like these pictures get us through these cold winter days. Knowing we will see these beautiful flowers again next season makes the effort to save the seeds worth it! Klann farm will have seeds come spring 2016. If you are interested in planting similar flowers like the ones found at Prineville Honey Bee Haven, be sure to check back with us. 

Photo credit Andy Tullis- Bend Bulletin

Photo credit Andy Tullis- Bend Bulletin

Klann Farm Honey Bee Hives

Observation windows for quick inspections of the hive.

Observation windows for quick inspections of the hive.

We are taking orders for honey bee hives here on Klann Farm. The resident woodworker (my husband Eric) is gearing up to make these amazing hives over the winter for spring time honey bee needs. Here are some features of the hives available for pre-order:

*Space for 24 wood foundationless Langstroth frames

*24 preassembled Langstroth wood frames

*Two observation windows for easy honey bee viewing and quick inspection

*A cedar shingled roof mounted with sturdy hardware that opens with ease and stays in place during inspections utilizing the frame's roof brace

*Two screened bottom boards to help with varroa mite control

*Two mite count boards with handles for easy inspection

*Hand painted exterior finish including a primer coat and detailed stencil work

*Handles for easy transport

*A feeder slot and feeder

*A single honey bee entry point with an attached adjustable entry block (to minimize during robbing season and winter months and to maximize during honey flow)

*A hand sewn cover cloth made of duck canvas to serve as a traditional inner cover 

*For those interested in IMP strategies including using drone comb to combat varroa mites, we also will include one drone foundation frame. 

Pictured: Feeder space (covered) and hand stenciled adjustable entry space.

Pictured: Feeder space (covered) and hand stenciled adjustable entry space.

These hives are truly the best for anyone with back issues, those who wish to have a visual access point to their honey bees or anyone looking for a work of art for their bee hives. Our hives are mounted to hive stands similar to the picture below. This method protects the hives from tipping, wind, and allow us to inspect the hive from a standing position. 

Hive stands similar to this image are also available for purchase.

Hive stands similar to this image are also available for purchase.

Pricing:

Empty hives

We do not currently have any available hives for purchase. We do however take orders for serious inquiries. Complete hives are available for $600. This includes the hive, frames, cover cloth and paint work. We also offer the stand for an additional $100.  Please reach out to us if you are interested in this type of hive and we can discuss a possible timeline. You truly won't be disappointed!

 

Photo credit: Andy Tullis @ The Bend Bulletin

Photo credit: Andy Tullis @ The Bend Bulletin

These hives are a labor of love on our part and we are very passionate about the future of the honey bee population. We hope to sell our hives to those serious bee keepers that recognize the commitment and dedication it takes to being honey bee hive owners. 

For more information about our hives or to see a hive in person, please use the contact option found on the main page toolbar. We thank you for your interest and look forward to working with you. 

The Klann Family

 

 

Fall on the Farm

Sometimes I feel like I am part squirrel during the autumn months. I know it isn't technically fall yet, but that doesn't keep a farm from having "fall-like" chores. I couldn't choose topics specifically on this blustery afternoon, as the variety of things we have going on here is just too diverse! Introducing my life this weekend in pictures:

Potatoes curing on the table in the carport for future meals.

Potatoes curing on the table in the carport for future meals.

First up, potatoes. The kids and I dug up the potatoes in the patch this weekend. I leave them sitting out on a table for a few days (no washing the dirt off) so that they "cure" for winter storage. This conglomeration of starchy yumminess will last us through the holidays for sure. 

I must mention that when you dig up potatoes, it's fairly certain that you will hit a few with the shovel as you work. I seemed particularly on target this weekend slicing and dicing several, so we are having potatoes for dinner tonight. It is important to not have any cuts or bruises on the potatoes you plan to store because they will rot all the others. This inspection takes time, but it is well worth the effort to have your own potatoes through the winter months. 

Breakfast burritos for the next two weeks. 

Breakfast burritos for the next two weeks. 

Next up- meal prep. I cooked and prepped a ridiculous amount of food this weekend! I can't tell you how much stress this saves during the week when meals are ready to go. These burritos are an easy warm up in the morning as we race to school and work. 

I stick extras of these meals in the freezer and just pull them out when we need them. Making lunches can be exhausting, stressful and expensive unless you think ahead. 

Poppy and Flax seed drying on the counter for next year.

Poppy and Flax seed drying on the counter for next year.

Next- seed saving. I told you I was a squirrel right? I save all kinds of seeds as they turn on the flower heads. After they dry, I put them in ventilated containers and stick them in the refrigerator. This is called "stratification." It is like simulating winter for the seeds. I pull them out of the fridge when I am ready to plant. 

The honey bees love the sunflowers that line the gravel driveway to our house. We have hundreds of sunflowers along the lane. I purchased these little mesh bags from the Dollar Store to help salvage the seeds from the eager birds visiting the bee garden. The bags allow the air to flow and dry the heads while protecting the heads from hungry birds. There are PLENTY of left over seed heads for our feathered friends and I will enjoy using the seeds next year in the garden. The  seed heads in the bucket will dry in the basement this winter and guarantee a pretty garden next year!

The pumpkins along the lane are changing colors with the seasons. The honey bees have worked their magic pollinating carving pumpkins, gourds and all sorts of zucchini plants. This harvest will come in a few weeks (hopefully) as the first frost settles in. Besides the pumpkins, we have grapes, peppers and tomatoes left on the list to harvest and tuck away. It's a good thing that work gives us a break from farming during the week right? 

 

Cauliflower: A Harvest Win For The Whole Farm

Large cauliflower leaves provide a water source for our thirsty bees.

Large cauliflower leaves provide a water source for our thirsty bees.

I've been busy lately with the cauliflower in the garden. This is the first year I was able to successfully grow it and I have to say it has been an exceptional harvest year. I started this journey in early February when I first planted the cauliflower seeds in the greenhouse. It was February 2nd to be exact. The kids and I made our daily trip into the retreat of the insulated greenhouse on a cold morning. Believe it or not, a sunny winter day with temperatures below freezing can deliver an 80 degree retreat in the greenhouse.

Below is a picture of what we planted this year. This variety comes from the company Territorial Seeds. I devour their catalog during the winter months wishing and dreaming and this year I felt like this short season variety would give me the best chance. Notice the part about "50-60 days." We will get back to that part in a bit.

Fast forward to the tail end of June (4+ months later). I've harvested roughly 20-25 heads of this amazing and delicious stuff. Yes, that is correct, 20-25. I apologize for losing count, but I can make up for it with pictures of what I did (and still am doing) with it. 

The cold crop bed at the farm. This bed includes onions, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes and cauliflower. 

The cold crop bed at the farm. This bed includes onions, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes and cauliflower. 

With 20+ cauliflower heads ready all at once, I had to have a plan for what to do with them. I knew I wanted to harvest them before the big heat set in around here and I knew that meant pulling the entire plant. Cauliflower offers only one harvest as opposed to broccoli, which may send another shoot up. This left some gaping holes in the garden space, but I have plans for those!

Time to find some new things to add to those empty spaces.

Time to find some new things to add to those empty spaces.

In order not to make this post too long, I'll quickly show you a few of the things I did with this amazing harvest. The story of how to blanch vegetables and how to can them will come another day.

I made sure to wash the cauliflower when I brought it into the house to ensure that none of nature's little friends tried to join us inside. Soaking the heads for a few hours in a light salt water helps with this. I used my trusty Ball Canning book in my experiment with a few jars of pickled cauliflower. 

I can't forget to note that we had other winners in this great harvest here on the farm. Our chickens earned the right to forage and devour the left over leaves after my harvest. They were happy ladies too.


I feel very pleased with how this year's harvest turned out. We have fresh cauliflower in the fridge for snacking and meals. We have plenty of enticing cauliflower resources to reach for during the cold winter months ahead too. It has been an enormous task to "put it away" in the freezer and in canning jars, but I am thankful to have had the chance to do it. February 2nd to June 28th... not quite the timeline noted on the seed package. That is gardening in Central Oregon for you! This little face makes it all worth it though.

Finding the Queen Bee

Its been a few weeks around here since we helped relocate two local swarms to Prineville Honey Bee Haven. Each morning  the newest members of the family have been fed a fresh jar of sugar water to help them transition to life beyond their original hives. We've also tried not to interfere with their settling in and have only opened each hive just a few times. It takes a monumental effort to start from scratch and establish a new hive home. 

We decided to keep the swarm captures in these nuc boxes until they showed steady enough growth to move to a larger hive in the honey bee garden. The last inspection proved that these girls are tenacious builders and ready for a bigger home. 

One of the challenges to a swarm catch and the establishment of a new home, is the possibility that the honey bees may build various shaped comb. Our frames are foundationless here on the farm and this allows for some "creativity" on the girls end. As a beekeeper, you want the comb to meet size requirements for the hive and sometimes have to work to adjust the newly formed comb to fit correctly.  Notice how white this new comb is.

A trick you can use as a beekeeper is to borrow unused comb from another hive and to attach it to a foundationless frame with string to help give the girls a head start. Within a few days they will attach the comb themselves and make every effort to remove the string. It is important to get the string out as quickly as you can, as the bees can get caught in it and eventually die. 

Now that we know the new swarm catches each have a queen and  progress checks show freshly drawn comb, eggs and food stores, the next step is to ensure that each of the swarms have a large enough space to expand the colony and to check on them regularly. As the nectar flow comes on in the next few months, sugar water won't be needed at all. The girls will end up simply ignoring that it is even there...the real stuff simply tastes much better. 

If you build it, they will come

This weekend I experienced what I can only describe as simply AMAZING. Just after 1:00 pm I put our two kids down for a nap. When I walked out of the house, I heard what sounded like a jet plane taking off directly over my head. What I saw next absolutely stunned me: a honey bee swarm in our vegetable garden.

Almost instantly, my beekeeping instincts kicked into gear. I wanted to catch that swarm and I raced to tell both my husband and our daughter. We suited up and prepared to catch our newest farm family members before they decided to leave for somewhere else. 

 Honey bees swarm for a few reasons, but in essence half of the population of the mother hive leaves with the old queen to establish a new hive. When the bees leave the mother hive, they gorge themselves with honey in anticipation that it may take them some time to find a new home. Because of this, they are fairly docile and don't tend to sting. The swarm lands wherever the queen is and they cluster on top of her to protect her and keep her warm. 

   Once we donned our suits and collected our gear, we were ready to capture the swarm. This meant that we placed a "nuc box" directly underneath the cluster and gave them a good shake. The hope of course is to catch as many bees as possible inside of the box and more importantly, the queen. Afterwards, the box was set right near the original swarm location and the remaining bees ideally join the group within a few hours. If we missed the queen and she failed to land in the box, most likely the swarm would take off again.    Once evening fell and the swarm was inside for the night, we moved the box to its new home on the farm. We will keep the bees well fed with sugar syrup for at least a month and hope that they are able to establish residence in their new home.    The entire experience of course was surreal to say the least for all of us. Everything played into our favor on this one. We saw the swarm almost instantly, we had the equipment to catch it, the swarm landed in an ideal location and most importantly we were literally working on the finishing touches of the honey bee foraging garden fence. This truly goes to show, IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. I am so incredibly thankful to have experienced this!

 

Once we donned our suits and collected our gear, we were ready to capture the swarm. This meant that we placed a "nuc box" directly underneath the cluster and gave them a good shake. The hope of course is to catch as many bees as possible inside of the box and more importantly, the queen. Afterwards, the box was set right near the original swarm location and the remaining bees ideally join the group within a few hours. If we missed the queen and she failed to land in the box, most likely the swarm would take off again. 

 Once evening fell and the swarm was inside for the night, we moved the box to its new home on the farm. We will keep the bees well fed with sugar syrup for at least a month and hope that they are able to establish residence in their new home. 

 The entire experience of course was surreal to say the least for all of us. Everything played into our favor on this one. We saw the swarm almost instantly, we had the equipment to catch it, the swarm landed in an ideal location and most importantly we were literally working on the finishing touches of the honey bee foraging garden fence. This truly goes to show, IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. I am so incredibly thankful to have experienced this!