Monday, February 12, 2018

The Pallet Beehive

"Art is making something out of nothing and selling it," Frank Zappa

I have been making beehives out of old pallets. I've built about 14 now. I had planned on building 100 but the process is just too time consuming.

However, if you are broke and want to get into beekeeping, then this is a way to build something great out of something free.

Now before I get started, there will be a lot of naysayers who will start talking about poisoned pallets and the such. This is not a real issue. In fact, I have used the unpainted type of pallets and have not had one ill-effect from them... well other than possibly Hive Beetles but I fixed that too.

The only two things you need to do to use pallet wood is:

1) Stagger the joints on the front vs the sides. I do this by simply cutting one of the side boards in half longways, and then placing half at the top of the box and the other at the bottom.

2) Fill in ALL of the gaps. I think failing to do this might have contributed to my hive beetle problem last year. Since the pallet boards are roughly 3.5" wide, it takes three to make one deep box. If done poorly or if the wood is not exactly straight, then there will be cracks. Simply fill these with glue and sawdust.
Mabel got cold but refused to quit

By the way, I already had all my pallets taken apart, so it only took me 2 hours to build 3 deep suppers.

As for me, I think I am going to just start buying lumber. I have a little more money this year than I have had in the past, and so the expense won't be too much of a burden. The time saved will be more than worth it.

The most important thing about this blog, is that I finally got back in the wood shop and back to working towards building my bee business.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Taste Test Sept Pear Mead

"The wine in the bottle does not quench thirst." - George Herbert.

Hello All,

This will be very short. On January 31, 2018, Noah and I tasted the September Pear Mead. It wasn't ready yet and tasted terrible.

It was very dry and smelled a little like beer - however, the acidic finish that I tasted at the bottling is gone. This is how the wonderfully sweet Christmas Mead we drank tasted right after I had bottled it, so I think this will be fine when it matures.

We still have two bottles left. We will try one at the 6 month mark and save the other for Christmas.

Like I said... this is a short one, so - The End.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Roasted Honey Mead - AWESOME!

Christmas Day 2016, we tasted my first mead... and it was bad. So while I am an amateur (for now) I am determined to get it right.

"The secrete to doing anything is believing that you can do it," - Bob Ross.

If you have followed any of my Mead blogs, then you know that this year I made all of my mead with roasted honey (or the honey that is rendered after I heat my wax to 160͒F). It worked GREAT!

In two previous blog entries: Mead: Mastering the Basics & Beetles, Chickens, and Mead, I explained my process and mead recipes. However, I failed to report what happened when I bottled it.

On the first racking, it tasted a little dry, so I back sweetened one bottle and left the other as is. Once again, in the words of Bob Ross, "We don't make mistakes. We just make happy accidents." So by back sweetening I inadvertently made Campaign - thankfully the bottle didn't blow up.

So at the five month aging marker, on Christmas Day 2017, we tasted it. The Campaign (or sparkling mead) was very sweet with 12% alcohol and had wonderfully delightful bubbles that seemed to go on forever. We didn't let it breathe at all, yet it was delicious with no odd tastes from the roasted mead.

The second bottle, I let breathe for exactly 20 minutes. It too was delicious. Still a little sweeter than I would have normally drank but I think a lot of people would have enjoyed this as a desert wine. It had 8% alcohol.

I am so excited and I am invigorated by the prospect of mastering the craft as I progress.

On a separate note: after two years of blogging, I finally got my first comment:

toptan bal fiyatları 
koyu renk petek bal 
süzme çiçek balının faydaları
çam balı teneke fiyatları
petek balın rengi nasıl olmalı

I like to think it says:
I love America
I love your blog
You are hilarious
I look forward 
to your next adventure

Happy New Year to All!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Linda Passed Away

"A year from now you may wish you had started today," Karen Lamb

I have been overwhelmed as of late. I can't put my finger on the exact cause of this feeling but it is there just the same and it has been crushing my productivity.

Nonetheless, Monday (12/4/17) I finally managed to winterize my hives. It went very well despite working in a light misty rain. However, it was warm and the bees were agreeable.

I did not merge hives B.1.1 and VSH as planned. I made all the preparations - I reduced B.1.1 to one single super and placed paper over it. However, when I opened the VSH hive it was full of both bees and beetles.

B.1.1 is small and should make it through the winter but I doubted it could survive another beetle attack. So I closed up both hives and left them separated.

Only time will tell if this was the right decision.

On a personal note: My mother-in-law past away on Tuesday (12/5/17). She has been sick for years with a mental condition that mimics dementia and over the past couple of years she had required full-time care. The task was divided amongst my mother, nephew, daughter, son, paid sitters, me, and my wife (the order of those names gives the magnitude of contribution with about 90% of it falling on me and my wife).

It has been exhausting. Her passing feels like a blessing but saying that feels selfish and cold. My wife has now lost both of her parents in the past 18 months and that breaks my heart for her. Just the same, I am sure that the reduced stress of caring for her mom will actually make her life infinitely better - once she has finished grieving of course.

I don't know if my feelings of being overwhelmed are significantly linked to my mother-in-law or if I am just lazy. The weeks to come will answer that question. Either way, 2017 is coming to an end and Spring will be here before you know it.

I have two goals for next year: 100 hives and mastering queen rearing. I think I'll make a chart to hang in the shop and mark off each hive as I build it - then do the same in the spring and mark them off as I fill them with bees.

BTW: My chickens started laying eggs the day before Thanksgiving and I am getting an egg every day now.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Drones at the edge of winter

Link to YouTube Here
"Never trust a woman, even though she has given you ten sons," Chinese Proverb

That's a fitting quote given that my hive is full of sons (drones). This is a heartbreaking event so late in the year.

While doing a little winter preparation, I opened up the first hive (Hive-VSH) and found that it was full of drones. I felt sick. It was also full of beetles. Though neither issue seemed to be effecting the health of the hive - for now.

I quickly checked the other hives in the yard and they all seemed fine.

Hive-B.1.1, despite having issues earlier, has managed to make a come back but is still a little on the weak side with only about 8 frames of honey.

Without removing any frames I looked for signs of brood but didn't see any. I suppose the queens have quit l
aying for the winter. It was a bad idea anyway but I thought I might stick an egg in Hive-VSH in hopes that they might make a queen before the frost set in.

However, after watching the YouTube video (the picture above is linked) I've decided to merge VSH and B.1.1 together. I was already leaning in that direction but the video pushed me over the edge. So if this causes both hives to die, then I'll blame that YouTuber.

The weather will be warm and dry again of the Friday after Thanksgiving and so I plan to make that my final visit for the year.

I have taken the next 9 days off from work for Thanksgiving. I plan to use the time to get my wood shop cleaned up (it got pretty disorganized throughout the bee season) and to start building hives for next year.

I also plan to build a new beetle trap and try it out over the winter. I've made a little sketch here.

Next Blog will be on how I merged the two hives. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pear Mead: One Month Out

"In wine there is truth," Pliny the Elder... and with a name like that, you have to believe him.

I spent the weekend doing chores around the house. Of my many tasks, Sunday I bottled the Pear Mead I made on 9/24/2017.

Mistake 1: While I was preparing to bottle, I kept thinking there are 3.7 litters in a gallon - which is true. So I set out three bottles and a couple of 8oz. mason jars for the .7 litters - most of you may already see the error here.

So I sanitized all my equipment, set my corks to soaking, and then began siphoning (quite successfully I might add) the mead into the bottles. When the three bottles were filled, I still had a 1/2 of gallon of mead left. Dote!

I of coursed panicked and, in doing so, stirred the sediment at that bottom - not totally but enough to cloud the remaining mead.

In the end I ended up with three crystal clear bottles of mead and two slightly cloudy 8.oz mason jars. I placed the mason jars in the fridge to chill for tasting later that night. The rest went down the drain.

This is as far as I can push
it with my hand.
Mistake 2: I needed to cork the three bottles. I have an Italian Double Lever Corker (that did not come with instructions.) The last time I used it, I only corked two bottles and the corker was next to useless.

Now I might have mentioned this before but I am a rather large fellow. So to cork the bottles, I placed the base of the bottle on an oven mitt for traction, then I used my bare (bear) hand to force the cork into the neck of the bottle. Then I placed the Corker on the remaining 1/4" (and after about 20 attempts) I made the cork flush with the top of the bottle.


This time, I had the same trouble but after I had already forced the corks into the neck of the bottle by hand, I couldn't get the corker to drive them home.

So I did what I should have done in the first place - I YouTube'd it.

Wow, talk about feeling like the guy who tried to make orange juice by concentrating. It was too late for the three bottles I was working on but now I can't wait to try the corker out. (It took a lot of restraint, not to cork an empty bottle.)

Tasting Note - One Month Out:

The Pear Mead tasted very dry at first with a faint sent of pear and a strong sent of yeast. However, after allowing it to air for 40 minutes, it tasted a little less dry but had an acidic finish. I am hoping that time will reduce the acidity.

This was a sweat recipe with an added cup of pears (see previous blog: Mead - Mastering the basics)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Predator-Proofing my Chicken Tractor

"Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral," Frank Lloyd Wright

My first three months of chicken husbandry was a lot more work than it needed to be. Taking the chickens outside every day and carrying them back inside every night was a hassle and quite time consuming. Thankfully that is behind me.

It took nearly three months to get around to it but I finally finished my chicken tractor. The original chicken tractor was done months ago but I wanted mine to be more predator-proof. So last Wednesday, despite being run down from two weeks of long office hours, I got a second wind and four hours later, it was done.

The extra step was to attach out-rigging to the base of the pen to prevent predators from digging under the edges. I think this is a pretty good idea.

I expected that lifting the out-rigging during moves would be an issue and had planned for an elaborate pulley system. Luckily the out-rigging doesn't cause any issues at all. I attached the pull rope to the front rigging so it lifts automatically. The two sides stay in the out position as the back edge never looses contact with the ground. And the tail end (that is identical to the front) just slides along as I pull. It works GREAT!

Chain link hinges
One problem I did have was that hinges are expensive. Not so much individually but I needed eight of them and that began to add up quickly. So (and I think this is one of my best ideas ever) I used links of chain instead. I simply took an old chain and cut sections of three links per hinge. Then I screwed them in place with washers (which I just happen to have exactly the right amount of in my scrap bucket - not that they cost much).

The out-rigging was made out of four pressure treated 2x4x10' that I ripped down the center. My coup is 4x8, so the extra two foot of left over was used as the end pieces of the sides. The front and end is 6' tapering to 4' (truthfully, this happened because I meant to use 2x4x12' but it turned out to look great). The final diagonal bits were constructed out of scrap I had from the original coup build.

showing the wheels engaged
Time will tell if my chicken tractor is truly predator-proof. However, I think this is great solution that only added $30 more to my overall cost. The best part is that now it only takes me about two minutes to feed, water, and move my chickens each afternoon.

I also attached some wheels that I haven't used since the night I first put them on. The tractor is light enough that I really don't need them.

So that's my predator-proof chicken tractor. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.