Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Bees Live in Brooklyn

After picking up the bees, and watching the bee demo, it was finally our turn!  I could barely contain my excitement.  Someone asked me how we got 3 packages of bees from Union Square to downtown Brooklyn.  We thought about taking the subway, but didn't want to risk it.  Believe me, some New Yorkers do that! We transported ours in a brave taxi cab. :) We had the boxes in a paper bag, so it wasn't SO obvious what we were carrying.  However, bees are noisy, they well... buzz.  So Paul, one of my beekeeping partners and I were talking during the whole cab ride, almost as to compensate and distract the driver from hearing the buzzing bees.  hahaha.  Our beehives are both located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and placed in a hosted location.  I beekeep with 3 other classmates, and we found out about these host's from our beekeeping teacher Andrew.  Beehive hosts are people who own residences, buildings, or maintain public gardens that want beehives on their property but don't want to be actively maintaining them.  They invite beekeepers to install and maintain beehives on their property, which is a win/win situation.  They get to host a beehive, and we get a location to beekeep.  When we got to Emily's house, (she's one  of our beehive's host), we took the packages out of the bags so the bees could calm down a bit before we brought them to their new home.  We were met by Christopher, one of Emily's friends and a photographer who took some wonderful photos of the whole installation process.
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
Here's a closeup of one of the bee packages.  You can see in front of the box were either some bee "hitchhikers", or some local bees attracted by the new Queen's scent.
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
Here's a photo of Paul carrying one of the packages.  It was our first time handling this many bees!  We were beyond excited!
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
I'm so glad Christopher was there to take photos!  We were too busy with getting the bees ready that we didn't have time to take many of our own photos!
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
Here we are trying to get the can of sugar water out of the box. The Queen's box is right next to this can as well.
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
Since there were some sugar water left, we left the can near the hive so that the bees could continue feeding on the sugar water. 
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
Finally, the moment where us beekeeping students put our training into action.  Paul shook the bees into the beehive, just like our bee teacher showed us.

Here is Paul with the Queen's box.  There were bees attendants all over the Queen.  Paul removed the cork and placed the Queen's box between two of the frames, and with that, we were done installing the first beehive!
Photo credit: Christopher Franko
After we installed the first beehive into the backyard location at Emily's house, we walked 3 blocks to our next beehive location.  Our other hive resides on the rooftop of DK's house, (our other beehive host).  Here I am spacing out the frames in the beehive getting it ready for the bees.
Photo Credit: DK
Here I am releasing the cork out of the Queen's box.  It's best to remove the Queen's box first and place her between the frames before you pour the bees into the beehive.  We forgot to do that step first at Emily's.
Photo Credit: DK
A closer look at removing the cork.  There is candy surrounding the Queen's box and her attendants eat away at the candy which releases her from the box.
Photo Credit: DK
Paul placing the Queen between the frames while I remove the sugar water can.
Photo Credit: DK

Photo Credit: DK
It was my turn to dump the bees into the beehive.  We spray the bee box with sugar water to calm the bees down.  The bees get distracted by the sugar water, the water weighs down their wings and makes it harder for them to fly.  Also, they start to lick the sugar water off each other.  This makes it easier for us to pour the bees in.
Photo Credit: DK
Here I am shaking the box and releasing all the bees.  I have to say this was such an adrenaline rush!  My heart was literally beating out of my chest. 
Photo Credit: DK
Shake, shake shake, and just like that, all the bees were in the box! 
Photo Credit: DK
After we finished installing the bees into the rooftop hive, it was time for us to pack up and leave. Our first inspection of the bees will be in 5 days, upon which we check that the Queen has left her box and that the hive is busy making beeswax and honey, as well, that the Queen is busy laying eggs. As Paul and I walked down the street on our way to the subway, he said to me, "Mimi, don't call us beekeeping students anymore.  Now, you can call us Beekeepers!"  Well said Paul, well said!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Bee Demo

In my last post, I wrote about how I picked up 30,000 bees in Union Square Park, NYC.  After we picked up our bees, our bee teacher said he would show us a bee demo of how to get the bees into the hive.  Myself, and some fellow students walked 3 blocks West with our bee packages in tote to see the demo.  When we got to the apartment building, we had some trouble getting up the elevator, the thought of climbing 7 flights of stairs with 3 boxes of bees was not appealing at all. Finally, we were able to notify our teacher that a bunch of us were stuck in the lobby and so they sent us the elevator to come get us. However, by the time we got up to the terrace where the beehives were, we missed the first half of our teacher's demo.  We caught the part where he was discussing how to remove the Queen's box from the package and how to place the Queen's box into the hive.
When the bee package is delivered, the Queen is in her own box with some bee attendants.  There is "candy" surrounding the Queen's box and the other bees eat their way through the candy within a few days and releases the Queen.  The purpose of separating the Queen from the other bees is to acclimate the Queen to her new attendants.  The separation allows the other drones and worker bees to get used to the Queen's pheromones.
Even though most of us missed the first demo, our teacher Andrew said they were going to do a second one.  Phew, thank goodness, I was so relieved!  I really wanted to see how this was done.  Here again, showing us the Queen's box. The Queen's box is placed between two frames inside the beehive.  You need to remove the cork at the bottom of the box before placing it into the hive.
Before Robert poured the bees into the beehive, first he shook the box so that all the bees could fall to one side of the box.
Then he took the box of bees and shook all the bees out of it, onto the beehive and over the Queen's box. Shake, shake, shake until most of the bees were out. If any remain, the box is left on the ground, and the bees find their way out by themselves.
After we saw the demo, they showed us how to check the frames with honey. This entire frame is filled with honey ready to harvest. Oooh, ahhh, yummy! This is the good stuff!
After this demo, it was our turn to release our bees.  How we did it will be in my next post!  Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2012

30,000+ Pickup

Last Saturday morning at 6am, I was on an express bus on my way to the Union Square Farmer's Market.  Bleary eyed and completely exhausted, I arrived to Union Square around 7:30am. The market was just getting started, vendors were still putting out their goods. And early birds were milling about.  Why was I there so early in the morning... on a weekend no less? 
I walked around for awhile, until I found what I was looking for.  I should have just gravitated towards the large crowd on the Southwest side of the park.  I can't believe I got here early, and I'm already last on line!
What was everyone waiting for, you might ask?  Look in the middle of this photo, do you see it?
Look closer, see it now?  There was much excitement, and camera crews everywhere.  Ahhhh, New York!

Okay, here's a better look.  See it now?  I came to meet our beekeeping teacher, Andrew and the folks at NYCBA.  My other 3 beekeeping partners and I had ordered two packages of bees from them and we were here to pick them up.  My teacher drives down to Georgia to pick up all the Italian honeybees from an apiary there.
Here's a closeup of his truck bed.  Can you imagine driving this truck from Georgia to NYC with a truck full of bees?  He does this trip once a year in the springtime.  Can you imagine what the state police would say if they pulled him over?  LOL.
Here's a photo of some of the bee boxes getting unloaded off the truck.  Each box contains about 10,000 bees.
I love this photo.  My fellow classmate Tom joked that he thought it was pretty funny that the women that was taking the bee boxes out of the truck was not wearing a protective bee suit, yet she was handing the boxes to the guy in the full bee suit.  haha.
The boxes are connected together, so they needed to be cut apart for distribution.
Here's our beekeeping teacher Andrew marking off names off his clipboard as we picked up the bees.  He looked a little stressed out.  There were lots of people there and lots of bees to hand out!
This is what we came to pick up!  Happy, happy bees.  I ended up picking up 3 boxes of bees.  Two packages for us and one box for a friend.  30,000 bees in total!
After we picked up the bees, our teacher and a fellow NYCBA member gave us a demo on how to pour the bees into the beehive.  My next blog post will be about the bee demo.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wintersowing Update

Ever since I tried wintersowing last year, I have been a convert. It is by far the easiest way to sow seeds, all you need to do is to plant the seeds in soil in a juice or milk jug container, and leave it outdoors all winter long.  That's it.  The process of freezing and unfreezing softens the seed shell, and then when it's warm enough, the seeds will germinate.  You literally let mother nature takes it's course.  This year, I wintersowed a whole bunch of heirloom tomato seeds.  I knew tomato seeds would do well wintersown because last year, there were lots of volunteer tomato plants in the garden.  Yesterday, I saw that one of the tomato plants is doing really well in the juice container "greenhouse".
Look how healthy it is!  Wintersowing rocks!  Here's the thing though.  I made these plastic DIY plant tags out of milk jugs, and wrote on permanent marker what type of tomato plant this was.  However, the marker completely wiped off from the rain, snow, and the elements.  So I have no idea what variety tomato this is now.  Bummer!  I'll have to wait to see what type it is when it's fully mature. Ugh, the wait!
Today, I received an email from one of my favorite stores, Brooklyn Industries.  As part of a celebration for Earth day, they participated in some earth friendly projects.  One of the projects they did to celebrate Earth day was a seed dress made with seeds embedded into the dress.  So you can "bury the dress" and watch it grow.
Another project that they participated in was this Seedbomb bracelet.  Which is a bracelet decorated with seedbombs.  So you can wear it, and when you see an open lot that you want to seed bomb, just take off the bracelet and throw it into the lot.  Cool right??  I so want to buy these!  Lastly, they also have bags made out of recycled coffee burlap bags.  I love the idea of recycling burlap to use as tote bags!  What did you do to celebrate Earth day?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Farming Supplies in the City

Last weekend, we had to pick up our 20,000 Italian honeybees that we ordered from our beekeeping teacher and the folks at NYCBA. I will write about that experience in an upcoming post. Since the bees were on their way, we were suddenly in a rush, we had to get some beekeeping supplies to get ready for their arrival. Even though the four of us involved in our new bee adventure all order our supplies online, none of us received our packages in time.  We had ordered beekeeper protective suits, entrance feeders, water feeders, hive tools, smokers, but none of it came in.  Then I remembered that I saw on Twitter that a new farming store had opened in Brooklyn called Hayseed's Big City Farm Supply.  Hayseed was opened as a seasonal farm supply store by Brooklyn Homesteader and the folks at Brooklyn Grange.  They recognized an increase of "urban farmers" maintaining gardens, chickens, and bees in the city and thus there was a growing need for a local source of farm supplies.  Things like hay, organic soil amendments, and poultry feed were absolutely impossible to find in the 5 boroughs.  I had read that they also sold beekeeping supplies, and since our beekeeping group had not received any of our supplies in time, I went there to pick up the most important bee gear, the protective veil.  At minimum, we needed hats and veils to wear when we pour the bees into our beehives.  We were so lucky that this store opened up this season to save us in this pinch!  At first sight, I was so impressed with this store.  It was so beautifully designed, that these photos really do not do it justice.  I was literally giddy walking around and looking at everything.  I was like a big kid in a gardening candy store!
I loved how they used a mixture of woods as their wall treatment.  They also had this lovely suspending light fixture above the cashier's desk, which were light bulb fixtures drilled into a garden planter.  And they integrated wooden pallets as decoration and farming supplies as wall ornaments everywhere.  I thought the store interior looked like a super cool stylish and modern barn.  It was so pretty, that I thought to myself, I want my apartment to look like this!  :)  I could totally live in a space like this! hahaha
This store was total eye candy.  It was so visually pretty, that it made me want to buy everything in sight.  However, I had to focus myself on picking up the beekeeping supplies that I came for.
So many different kinds of gardening equipment!!  Check out how they recycled wooden pallets as holders for the gardening shovels.  Isn't that an awesome idea?
How pretty is this?  The design of the entire store blew me away. It was lovely, and so much prettier to shop in a store like this than say a sterile looking Big Box Store.  I loved the look of the turquoise shovels suspended from the ceiling.  And look closely, next to the shovels are mason jars with lighting inside.  How novel right?
I wish my gardening supplies looked this neat and orderly!  Totally inspiring.
I also loved how they displayed seeds. I've always thought seed packets were very artistic, and this really highlighted that.  Here you can see the use of the mason jar lighting better.
And here is the section I was most looking forward to, the section on beekeeping supplies.  They sold Langstroth hives, smokers, bee brushes, hats and veils.  It's a great place to buy supplies in a pinch.  I picked up 2 entrance feeders, and a hat and 2 veils.
I'll definitely be coming back to the store since gardening season is in full swing.  There were lots of other supplies I saw that I wanted to buy.  It's a gardener's candy store.  I spoke with one of the owners while I was there and she said that the store is going to be seasonal, opened only from April - June.  I begged them to stay open throughout the summer, through to August.  I've always thought that New York City needed a local source of farm supplies.  And Hayseed is absolutely perfect and super convenient for us city folks.  I am telling everyone I know to go and support this new local store.  As this urban farming community continues to grow, we NEED businesses like this.  If you're in the NY City area, come out to Greenpoint, Brooklyn and support them!  They also offer classes, events and workshops, see their calendar of upcoming ones.  I definitely see a few I'd like to attend.  Go to the store, I promise, you'll love it!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Building Langstroth Beehives in a Queens Apartment

Two weeks ago, I had my last beekeeping class, and on the last day of class, our teacher told us about a woman in Fort Greene, Brooklyn that wanted to host a beehive on her rooftop of her house.  I didn't have a location yet for a beehive so I jumped at this opportunity.  After completing the beekeeping class, I was so inspired that I really wanted to have beehives this year, so this was a chance I couldn't pass up.   To have hives this season will be just awesome.  I found out that 3 of my fellow classmates were also interested in the same space, so instead of the four of us fighting for the same spot, we decided to partner up together to do a joint beekeeping adventure.  This was actually a perfect scenario for us because we could work together to create a successful hive!  Since this was my first time to ever have beehives, I didn't want to through the whole process by myself.  It is a lot of work and to be able to share in the start up costs and the bee maintenance will be amazing.  So it's great that I am partnering up with 3 other fellow enthusiastic students to go through this beekeeping learning process together.  We ARE so excited.  The following two weeks was a whirlwind of activity.  We had to order beehives, bees, beekeeping suits, equipment and oh yeah, meet our new host.  Every day for two weeks straight involved some type of beekeeping preparation.  A whole week went to building the beehives and installing them.  Paul, the only guy in our group, picked up the beehive kits that we ordered from our beekeeping teacher.  The hive kits we bought come unassembled so our job was to build them.  We learned how to build the hivekits in our last class.
I have to say that putting the hives together for the first time took a lot longer than we had anticipated.  It looked so much easier in class.  Hahahaha. 
Paul was such a rockstar with building the hives.  He's been working on the boxes every day in his Astoria, Queens apartment before work for 5 days straight.  Poor guy.  I came to help him finish building out the boxes.  Together, we got all the deep and shallow boxes built! Aren't they so pretty?  They smell like fresh cut wood too!
Paul also built all the frames.  There are 10 frames per box in this kit, so there are 60 frames to build in total.  That's a whole lotta frames!
We decided to paint the beehives white, a very traditional beehive color. Painting the hives helps protect the pine wood from the weather.
Here are all the hive boxes painted white.  Unfortunately, this is a badly lit photo.
When I left Paul's apartment, I noticed that there was a giant billboard with a bee on it at the subway station.  It was like a sign from the gods that we were doing the right thing!

The day after we finished building the hives, we installed them into their permanent locations in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  One beehive went on a rooftop.  After we met our first bee host, she told us about a friend of hers that also wanted a beehive.  So the four of us decided to do two hives this year. 
The other one went into this gorgeous backyard space.  The beehive will go into this spot.  The bees will love it since there are lots of blooms to forage for right in their own space!
This bee host was concerned about her dog getting too close to the hive so we decided to put in some fencing and a trellis.
Doesn't the hive just look amazing?  I love the color too!
Here is Paul installing the fencing.
All set up and ready for bees!
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