Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Where I've Been

I've been pretty quiet on the blogging front. I have been so busy. I just returned from a trip to San Francisco. I saw some pretty amazing plants out there. I completely fell in love with the giant sedum plants that I saw everywhere! This one I saw on our visit to Alcatraz Island.
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These sedum plants were in front of our hotel. So pretty!

Also on Alcatraz Island, there were these giant peace lily plants. The bloom was the size of my head!
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On the Alcatraz tour, they said that the inmates used to garden the land to pass the time. You can tell how well they landscaped it. Here is another photo of the peace lilies.

In the gift shop at Alcatraz, they even sold seeds from wildflowers from around the gardens on Alcatraz Island. I wanted to buy the bag of seeds, but they were a little pricey at $15 a bag. Plus, I no longer have a garden to grow in so I didn't buy it.

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I loved the leaves on this plant. This is a tropical plant, looked like a type of elephant ear to me. I'm not sure what the name is. The leaves were enormous!
Here is a close up of the leaves. It was easily 2 feet tall. And had a very waxy shiny texture to the leaf. I loved it!
Everywhere we went in San Francisco, there were these amazing views! Look at this view from Coit Tower! Just phenomenal!
I ended up taking a piece of San Francisco greenery with me. Here is a cutting of a sedum plant. I placed it in a coffee cup and it flew back with me. I planted this in a pot of soil, I hope it grows roots soon!
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Monday, November 10, 2014

Winterizing and Wrapping the HIves

Two weeks ago, we closed up our hives for the winter. We consolidated all the honey frames into three boxes. Then we add a sugar feeder and add 7 pounds of granulated sugar in the box. I also added a frame feeder holder inside the box and poured sugar into the frame.
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We then put the inner cover and staple a mesh over the hole of the inner cover. We staple mesh to the hole because we don't want any bees climbing up to the box above it.
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Above it, we then put an empty super on top of the sugar box and fill it with cedar chips. Cedar naturally keeps the pests at bay, such as mites, fleas, ticks, termites etc. The cedar chips also helps with the moisture, it wicks away any of the condensation that builds up. We also drill a little hole in this box to help with ventilation.
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We wrap the entire hive with tar paper to help insulate it and keep out the moisture.
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I always get a little sad when I wrap the hives for the winter. It'll be months before I see them again. The Buddha statue will hopefully watch over the ladies and hope they all survive the winter.
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Here are the hives all wrapped up. See you in the spring ladies.
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Honey Harvest 2014

It's been months since I wrote on my blog. I'm terrible. I don't know where the summer went. It went fast. Here's a quick update of what happened last month. We harvested honey from our hives. In the beginning of the season, we had high hopes and was hoping to have a big harvest of honey. We started the season with 2 hives and grew it to 4 hives by adding 2 Nucs. We had a series of problems such as some kind of poisoning killing off almost half of our bees. Plus we had a slow cool summer, with wet temperatures. We were lucky to even have any honey to harvest with these issues. We inspected the hives and pulled the super frames for harvesting.

Of the 4 hives, we only could pull 10 frames of honey. Way less than last year's harvest. Last year we pulled 18 frames in the Fall and we had less hives!.

But at least we had a harvest. Our first year we didn't have anything to harvest. So we are glad to have some honey.

It's amazing to me that these two frames of honey are from the same hive! The top one is likely from early summer and the bottom one was made recently, late summer. Just beautiful and two different taste profiles!

I love scraping the wax off the frames. It's almost therapeutic.

Can you believe how dark this honey is? Some of the frames of honey was this really deep black coffee color! Now that is rich fall honey!

And when it starts flowing, oh my gosh. It smells incredible. Like you want to dunk your head in it!
The flow of raw harvested honey! Yum!! #honeybee #honey #beehive #beekeeper #beekeeping #brooklynbees

A quick video to demonstrate what I mean. If only there was a smell app!
After we harvested the five frames of honey and split them up between the four of us (2 beehosts & 2 beekeepers) this is what each of us ended up taking home. 1 quart & 1 pint jar. This was the saddest harvest ever! But, at least we got a harvest.
I'm going to savor every last drop of this precious drop of my local Brooklyn honey!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Frustrations of Urban Beekeeping Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how sometimes beekeeping in an urban environment can be very frustrating and disheartening. This past weekend, the frustrations continued. When we went to the first beehive location, we were shocked to see that there was yet again, another huge die off of bees. Has this ever happened to your hives? What did you do to combat this?
I’m not exactly sure what is causing the bees to die off in this manner. We are looking into moving this hive to another location in hopes that whatever is causing this will stop. Luckily, when we opened the hive, the bees looked healthy. They weren't disoriented like last time.
There was also pretty good numbers of bees, so the hive had healthy numbers as well. We saw that the Queen was laying very good brood. So that is a good sign that it hasn't affected the inside of the hive. We suspect the die off the bees are likely the foragers. Hopefully with the Queen laying well, the foragers will be replaced with the newly hatching brood.
We pulled some frames and they were also building out wax and filling the frames with honey.
We looked inside our other hive and they have also been busy with making honey. In fact, they built some honey on top of the frames.
That looked and smelled so incredible, so we scraped these off the frames. And had a little taste for ourselves. Oh wow, is this every good! Floral, sweet, deliciousness!
After beekeeping duties were done, I saw that my favorite Cesar's taco truck was sitting outside the subway station.
I picked up one of these beauties. This is a chicken empanada. It's a perfect snack after beekeeping. Yum.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Making Sourdough Pizza!

I have lots of sourdough starter and have been looking for ways to use it. I found a sourdough pizza recipe that uses up one whole starter! Sweet! I decided to give it a try!
I followed the recipe and let it rise. Then I put the pizza dough in a ziploc bag to make pizza the next day. Since the dough takes awhile to rise, it's best to start this in the morning or early afternoon if you want pizza for dinner. Or do as I did and put the dough in the fridge for the next day.
Rolled out the dough and added marinara sauce and cheese.
This came out soooooo good! The pizza didn't come out as crispy as I liked so I'll have to see if I can invest in a pizza stone. I'll definitely try this recipe again when I want to get rid of some of my sourdough starter. Do you use starter? What do you bake with it?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Frustrations of Urban Beekeeping

I love beekeeping, but sometimes it can be frustrating in an urban environment. Especially when you have neighbors that don't want you there. Two weeks ago, at my last inspection, I arrived to the backyard where I keep two of my hives. It's a beautiful yard, full of blooming flowers. I was getting ready to do an inspection, I started up the smoker. Only to be greeted by an angry neighbor behind the fence, screaming at me. In a very angry voice she was shouting at me to stop what I was doing and to not open the hives or continue with my inspection because she had guests in her backyard for a party. I was going to comply with her requests, and then she starts threatening to call the police on me. Upon which I stated, "Go ahead, call the police. My beehives are registered with the Department of Health. These hives are completely legal to own and have." I proceeded to tell her that she didn't have to scream at me in that manner and all she had to to was ask nicely to not do the inspection, and I would have complied. Apparently, she was stung by a bee the previous day, and now she feels scared of them. But how does she know they were my bees? And what if it was a yellowjacket, or wasp, or hornet? They all can be mistaken for honeybees. I now feel frustrated with having my hives here, if there is a chance that I will be accosted every time I show up for an inspection. I can tell she seems pretty unreasonable to talk to, since every time I tried to calm her down, she would talk over me loudly. People like that don't care that honeybees are an integral part of the eco-system, and that without them and their pollination, we wouldn't have the fruits and vegetables we consume.
Have you ever experienced something like this? It makes me really sad and start to rethink the location of this hive. Would I need to move it elsewhere? Somewhere where there are less neighbors perhaps? I have an upcoming inspection this Sunday. I'll have to see if I get into another verbal altercation with this neighbor. Hopefully, she has calmed down a bit. Fingers crossed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Forgotten Spring Photos

I downloaded photos off of my phone and found some I completely forgot to post on this blog. The photos show how amazing the spring flowers are in one of the gardens where we keep our beehives in Brooklyn. Don't these irises look amazing? I wonder if the honeybees like them.
Here's a view from another angle. Way in the back are the beehives.
A closeup of the irises. So pretty!
Closer to the hive are some blooming alliums. I just love these flowers. They remind me of cotton balls!
Here is our other beehive location. The fun part of this location is that we are always greeted by Oscar the kitty who lives at this location. He loves it when we are doing a beekeeping inspection. He watches us beekeep the entire time.
On this day, we also had to build our bee nucleus that we purchased. I've been wanting to raise bee nucleuses for awhile. I finally went ahead and ordered a kit.
And here is the nucleus completely built. It looks awesome! I can't wait to raise nucs!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Heartbreaking Inspection

Last week, we installed two new bee nucleuses into 2 of our hives. Therefore, we were excited to do an inspection to check on the status of the installed nucs. A bee nucleus is a miniature hive that you can purchase instead of a bee package. It usually consists of 4 - 5 frames with a laying Queen, and the frames should contain brood, pollen, and honey. I just love the look of the old nuc frames next to the new bee frames in our new hive!
The new bee Nucleus is looking great, the Queen is laying well and there was pollen in the frames which meant they have been foraging well. However, what's not looking great is the green hive. For the 3rd week in a row, we've seen a pile of dead bees in front of the hive. It's completely heartbreaking. We think it's probably a poisoning of some sort, most likely pesticide spray. We thought by now that whatever the bees were exposed to would have gone away from all the rain we've been getting. But seeing this means they are still being afflicted. Not knowing who is spraying makes this incredibly frustrating. Because the bees are obviously feeding on sprayed plants.
We saw a lot of bees on their backs unable to flip themselves around.
I took this video of the honeybee on her back. When I pulled the cover, she was moving her legs trying to flip over, but she did not have the strength to do so.

I filmed the front entrance of the hive as well. The bees in the front were walking around disoriented and shaking their bodies. They don't normally act like this. It makes me extremely sad.

Here is the inside of the hive. More of the same strange behavior. The only thing we can really do is to wait and see if the bees can overcome this. Hopefully there are still enough worker bees in the hive to get all the tasks done in the beehive. Luckily, the Queen is still alive and laying well. Since she is still alive and healthy, we have hope the hive will bounce back. We had pesticide poisoning happen to our hives before in the past and the hive never recovered from it. The numbers dwindled and they didn't make it through the winter because there weren't enough of them to keep warm. Hopefully this is early enough in the season that the Queen will keep continuing to lay and the numbers will go up.

Next, we went to the other beehive location. Fortunately for us, the beehives are doing amazing. The Nucs have a couple of frames of nicely patterned brood. That means the Queen is laying really well. Look how beautiful this frame is.
Here is a closeup of another frame. This was full of bees, honey, and brood.
We spotted the Queen on another frame. This Nuc came with a marked Queen which makes it so easy to find her. None of our other hives comes with a marked Queen. Look how amazing she looks!
After we finished with the inspections, we headed over to the farmer's market which is a few blocks from the beehives. Our beehost told us that they had a farm vendor there that sold free range eggs for only $4 a dozen!  $4!!! What an amazing deal! The farmer's market near my apartment sells free range eggs for $6 a dozen, so this is a great bargain! You really can't beat fresh farm eggs from a local farm. Incredible!
Look at these beauties! Aren't they gorgeous? Now that I know where to find fresh eggs like that, I'll be stopping by here every time I go beekeeping from now on! Score!!! Great find!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Homemade Ginger Ale

Ever since we've been getting seltzer delivered every month from the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, I've been absolutely obsessed with coming up with different kinds of homemade syrups to make sodas with. I looked up a recipe for Ginger syrup to make homemade ginger ale. I followed this recipe except instead of 2 cups of sugar, I only used 1 cup of sugar. I don't like sodas too sweet and this was just about right for my taste when I cut the sugar in half. This recipe is really easy, and what I loved about it was that the prep time is really minimal. It's just mainly cutting up some ginger, and you don't even have to peel the ginger! How easy is that?
Add the cut ginger to a non-reactive pot, then add sugar and water and boil. Once it's boiling, lower to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to reduce it down to a syrup. Then turn off the heat and let it cool. That's it. Easy peasy!
I used a funnel to pour the syrup into a bottle, add some seltzer and voila!
I poured in a half an inch of syrup, then topped it off with cold seltzer! YUM. So refreshingly good! This is a keeper!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Installing My New Bee Nucleus

This past weekend, we took a drive to Beehive Barn to pick up our new bee nucleuses. We ordered 2 Nucs from them because we've had great success with this NJ apiary. We did really well with two of our beehives surviving the winter with these hygenic bee stock. So we have been continuing to buy our bees exclusively from them. Beehive Barn is on this amazing piece of property in Cranbury, NJ. The property is dotted with barns and greenhouses, a real nice piece of farmland, with lots of land for the bees to forage in. This was the perfect day to pick up bees. Sunny, clear day, just fantastic! Aren't those just perfect clouds in the sky? Pretty right?
Sally, who owns the Beehive Barn, said we could go into the yard and pick out our own Nuc from the many nucs she had. She has about 70 hives, so we had a lot to choose from. Is this not incredible?
Here is another view with more boxes. Love. Love.
We brought our beekeeper suits and gear with us. Here we are puting together some cardboard boxes for the new nuc.
Here we are inspecting one of the Nuc boxes. We are looking for a box with frames of nice brood pattern and frames with pollen. We realized that we should have brought with us a smoker, that would have helped a great deal since the bees weren't too happy that we were opening the Nucs. They were getting slightly agitated from us opening the hive and the smoke would have calmed them down tremendously. I was stung here on the knee when we pulled frames. Ouch. We made sure we saw the Queen and we put the frames into the cardboard box and taped up the box for the car. We made sure we taped the lid pretty good. Last thing you want is the box to tip over and 10,000 bees spilling out into your car. LOL.
One of the things I love about this apiary are the chickens on the property. I saw this beautiful rooster checking us out! Sally gave us a dozen fresh farm eggs as a gift. That was so nice and thoughtful! I love fresh farm free range eggs, they taste so much better than supermarket eggs!
On the property, she also had this trailer with lots of Nucs lined up. I had to take a photo of this. I just love the look of these Nucs in a row!
We selected our Nucs and headed to Brooklyn to our two beehive locations. At our first stop, we added  the frames into our new beehive! Woohoo! We now have two hives in this backyard location! I cannot be happier!
Then we headed to our second beehive location. For this one, we decided to combine the Nuc to an existing beehive that survived the winter but has no active Queen. To combine the Nuc we added a deep box to the bottom, put the Nuc frames in with some empty deep frames. Then we placed newspaper between the bottom deep and the boxes of the existing hive. The worker bees will start to eat through the paper to get to the Queen. The purpose of the newspaper is to allow the old bees and new bees to become acquainted with each other's pheromones and with the pheromones of their new Queen. This is to prevent the old bees from killing the new Queen. By the time they eat through the newspaper, which should take only a few days, they will accept the new Queen.
Sadly, this day wasn't all happiness. We noticed at our green hive that there were lots of dead bees in front of the hive. There was a pile of at least an inch deep of dead bees. This was heartbreaking. We looked closely at the bees in front of the hive entrance and they looked like they were disoriented and walking in circles. We have seen this in the past. We had a die off in one of our hives and we suspected it was because of pesticide spraying or they were somehow poisoned by something toxic. Ugh. This makes me so sad. The only thing we can do is hope the Queen is healthy and that they will bounce back! Since this is our healthiest hive, I think they will definitely come back in numbers. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Love Spring!

This past weekend, I visited my parents again. I love this time of year because all the flowers around the house are in full bloom! My dad is a big time gardener. He loves planting and taking care of plants. It's probably why I love it too. Check out this climbing rose bush and the peonies next to it. There were bursting with blooms! I just love these colors and the fragrance is incredible! The smell of roses and peonies are so amazing!
I decided to pick some flowers from the garden to bring home. How insanely beautiful is this? And all grown in my parent's front yard!
And here is the freshly picked bouquet in my bathroom! So pretty! If only they lasted longer than a week!
I also wanted to check out the blueberry bush I planted in the backyard 2 months ago. Wow, it's doing so well! Look how healthy the plant is. Last time I was here, I spotted some flowers blooming and I wondered if any blueberries would grow.
I spotted 4 blueberries! I practically jumped for joy! This makes me soooo happy! I can't wait until next year to see how well this plant does with producing fruit! Woot, woot!
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