Thursday, June 2, 2011

Digging down and reaching up

This was quite a week in the garden.  First, I gave the hens the tall stalks of chard.  I propped each one against their upper perch, so it was both a food source and an exercise regime and play ground at the same time.  Like any animals, hens like mental stimulation!

Next, I dug the potatoes.  25 pounds of the most beautiful Yukon golds you ever have seen.  Did you know that really fresh Yukon gold potatoes have beautiful pink eyes scattered about the golden skin?  These potatoes ranged in size, with about a third being really big for the short season they had.  I attribute it to the bed that is made up primarily of very (too) loose organic matter; nothing held those potatoes back!  So far I have given some away and made potato salad.  My husband eats them raw, like apples, every time he passes the basket. 

Finally, the bees.  Grace's hive has been bursting at the seams.  There are so many bees that they can't fit inside at night.  I needed to look into getting them more space, and I needed to see if honey was ready for harvest.  Problem was, this hive is tall.  It sits on three cinder blocks, then has one deep and two medium brood boxes.  Above that was two honey supers/boxes.  I needed to check those top boxes, each of which weighed close to 30 pounds.  Both were far above shoulder height.

Suffice it to say that I am glad there was no one videoing me as I built a step out of blocks (smashing one finger), and gingerly lifted each box down.  The fun part came after I added a new honey super, with lots of open space, but then had to put the two original supers back on, even higher than before!  Remember, each box weighs close to 30 pounds, and is full of thousands of bees, and is being lifted above my shoulders/head.  My favorite part?  When I stepped up onto the blocks with the last and heaviest box, lost my balance, and had to step/fall back off, all while balancing the bees on my chest.  The bad news: although there was lots of nectar in those heavy boxes, it wasn't capped, so not ready to harvest.  I actually think that the bees are probably taking what was fully ripened honey back in order to feed the huge hive.  Will check again, with help this time, in a week or so.

Note two things in the last photo:  First, still too many bees, so some are spending the night outside on the front of the box.  Second, look at the entryway.  See all those bees with their abdomens in the air?  They are part of the water cooled air conditioning system, as they fan their wings as fast as possible.  You can hear the loud hum of all those beating wings as you approach the hive!