Monday, August 24, 2015

The Sweet Life (of a beekeeper)

-posted by Jayne

If you've read Isaac's last blog you may need some explanation as to what he was referring to when he mentioned I had run off to the Islands...

You see, one of the great benefits of being self-employed is the flexibility in your schedule.  Sort of.  That only applies if you can hire an awesome staff that can fill in for you when you want to get away (Thanks Katie, Jeanne, and Jess!).  So I took an extended weekend and went to Middle Bass Island with Isaac's grandma Krieger and the rest of the women on that side of the family.  The best part about this trip is that it was all organized by Isaac's Grandma Krieger, and she made the stipulation that there were to be no men, and no children.  What could I do?  I couldn't decline this invitation from Isaac's Grandma!  So he was left home with the children, for my second trip up to the Lake Erie Islands this summer.

One of the reasons for this annual trip to Middle Bass is the Barbershop Quartet singers that have gathered there every August for 65 years.  Grandma has been a loyal follower for many of those years, and her grandchildren have reaped the benefits from many trips to Middle Bass Island.  This year, we stayed at the Middle Bass Inn.

It was a beautiful home overlooking Lake Erie.

We took a passenger boat to Put-In-Bay on Saturday.  I can say I'm glad it was a short trip and we quickly returned to the solace and sanctity of Middle Bass.  If you've ever been to Put-In-Bay on a summer weekend, you know how crowded it can be with the party crowd.  I much prefer the sleepy nature of Middle Bass.

L-R, Molly Barnes (sister in law), holding baby Evey (very young children
had permission to come), Becky Barnes (sister-in-law), and Ellie Hanna (Cousin-in-law)
 We went on many bike rides around the Island.  It was a great way to explore the area.

And since this post has had absolutely nothing to do with beekeeping, I am going to entice you to mark the LITHOPOLIS HONEYFEST on your calendar for Sept. 11th and 12th.  Here are a few photo's from last year's event.  It looks like it's shaping up to be another exciting event!

Observation Hives and Educational Opportunities for kids

Crafts Galore

Honey Extraction Demos

sponsored by our very own bee club, The Scioto Valley

And of course... more Honeyrun Farm products under two tents than you
could ever imagine!

There will be an assortment of great bands, arts and crafts vendors, honey tasting, mead and wine tent, honey-inspired foods, and tons of activities for kids.  We hope you take time to check it out this year.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

But You Know Me Better Than That

-Posted by Isaac

So after ten years of marital bliss, ten years all peaks and no valleys, you've gone and left me. Have we really come to this? Run off to the islands and without so much as a glance over your shoulder.  You leave me with four hungry children and a crop in the field. Well you picked a fine time. Thanks a lot, Lucille.

Yes, while you and your floozies party it up, we poor stranded orphans desperately search for solace in old country songs. Kenny Rodgers, Randy Travis, George Strait...
And that's desperate.
A love that was once deeper than the holler, stronger than the river, and now we sit alone diggin' up bones. We try to pick up the pieces from the hard rock bottom of your heart. Trying to forge on. The minutes grind by slowly, seems like forever and ever, amen.
Where's Mommy?

But you know what? Easy come, easy go. I'm leaving here a better man.  Sure, it was a tough 40 hours, but I'm on the rebound. And I've got a few things to tell you. So write this down. Take a little note...

Baby, since you left me, there's somebody new.

She thinks I'm perfect, I swear.

That's right. She's young, she's restless. She's beautiful, smart and talented.
And you thought you had that market cornered didn't you? Well think again, Ol Gal!

It's been pure bliss

We skip across the clouds, we climb impossible peaks.

We bound through the wilderness of uncharted emotional highs, exalting our newfound freedoms.

No more ball and chain for me, Ol Gal. Those old boring nights of story time before bed? Long gone. Quiet reading, slipping into peaceful sleep? Good riddance! In fact there's not much sleeping going on at all, if you catch my drift.
Yes, this pretty young thing keeps me hopping.

And we're on the move.
Turning heads, grandstanding our looks, our charms, our social refinements, flitting through the cocktail party of life. Look out, Hollywood!

Take that Ideal Image!
Some women love "carpet."

And it's hard to keep up. She runs with a fast crowd. 
She's got her playboys, her yachts, her multimillion dollar estates.

Fast cars and fast cash. Fast friends,

fine wines and five star dining.

"Artisan" nuggets. "Artisan" fries.

A far cry from those greasy chophouses you like to frequent. The bad old days are over Ol Gal.
I'm telling you, friends in high places. You can take your cute little Garth Brooks song and head on back to the woods, Darlin'. Or should I say, Dumplin'?
You can have your bunch of ignorant beer swilling rednecks. Your lazy, fat hillbillies.

I'll take my new girl. I'll take the ballet. I'll take the symphony. We're into Culture!

(Clean up to our ears.)

But that ivory tower isn't so high, 

she can't come down and help me at the office once in a while.

She can talk business with the best of them.

And when the workday's over, when it's time to unwind, she tells me she loves me in no uncertain terms.

Sure, she can be a bit emotional, wearing her feelings among other things, on her um, sleeve.
But I like that! 
No secrets here. She's so open and honest, broadcasting her thoughts to the world.  

Oh, she tells her friends I'm perfect,

and that I love her cat...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

See You Next Spring!

-Posted by Isaac

What have we been doing lately?
Growing up on a grain farm, August was a time for twiddling thumbs and fishing. Not so with bees. We've been busy, and I wish I could say it was with honey extracting. But we're not quite there. Our busyness involves the varroa mite.

If you're at all involved with beekeeping you know what a scourge this little pest is. Or maybe you don't? Or maybe you're in denial...  "My hive inspection said, 'No Mites'!"

This is a quick informative post for some of you beekeepers who may want to know how we deal with varroa. (Especially for those of you who bought nucs from us in April.)

Please don't deny the hard facts of keeping bees... You have mites! Maybe a few, maybe a lot, but mites are there and they are not going away. August is the time to do something about it.

Here's what we do:

This time of year, we knock the mites down with formic acid.

There are a variety of tools at your disposal when combating the mites. Soft treatments, hard treatments, brood cycle disruption, you name it. The important thing is that you do something.

It is possible to fight varroa with no treatment at all. We've done it for years.. removing the queen, cutting cells... basically breaking the brood cycle. As you can imagine, this becomes quite tedious as your hive count increases.

Formic acid, the Mite Away strips, are a nice fast alternative to hunting for that queen. This is an organic treatment. A soft treatment... you can have honey supers on. Plus it works for mites hidden under the capped brood.

Get things ready before opening the hive.

Formic acid is naturally present in the hive already. You're just raising the level to a point where the mites can't take it, but bees can. 
But there are always parameters aren't there? With this stuff you've got to watch the temperature. Too hot (over 85F), and it's too volatile. You're going to kill some bees, maybe even the queen. Too cold (under 60F) and it just doesn't work well. You're wasting your money. And time.

Money and time... Yes, treating for mites require both. 
With the Mite Away strips, at four dollars a treatment, the expenses can quickly escalate. The pails run about a hundred bucks a pop.

About half the year's mite treatment.
But it's cheaper than buying new bees next spring!

Also time: the treatment needs to be placed in the middle of the brood. So in August, this involves a lot of removing of honey supers. It can wear you out.

On a good day I can treat about 100 hives.
But that rarely happens. Basically we make our way around and try to finish by mid-August. I've learned the hard way, if you wait, if you're still trying to treat with acid in September, it's almost too late. This was a hard and expensive lesson.

So get out there!

I say "we." Mostly I mean "me," but Seth too has been doing some mite killing of late. He's our licensed commercial applicator, having gone through the rigorous testing and training. 
For those of you who may be intimidated about the prospect of a mite treatment (actually doing something), Seth is going to demonstrate his knowledge and skill:

1. Open Beehive

2. Place Treatment

It's complicated, I know. But you'll catch on eventually. Even a dummy like me can learn these things.

When you're done, especially if it's around 80F, the hives look like this.

Take your medicine!

No, bees don't like it all that much. But it's good for them. If you check the following week, you'll notice an increase in activity. They just seem healthier... happier?
Or maybe I'm just seeing things.

Having said all this, I realize, for some, my preaching still falls on deaf ears. It's not natural to put something in a hive. Something as invasive as a mite treatment. It's not exactly biodynamic. Working holistically with nature... Building a stronger bee through natural selection.

And I can sympathize with this view. Hey, I'm as much a fan of Darwin as anyone. Hands off! Let nature take it's course! 
The thing is, for us, it's just not good for business. Dead bees, I mean.

And speaking of business, I'd be remiss if I didn't make at least one small sales pitch. (Especially for you holistic folks.) In the unlikely event that disaster should befall... In the improbable scenario of tragic results... If the hands-off approach (gasp!) doesn't fare well...     We can help you out!
We will have strong healthy nucs for sale next spring! That's right! New beginnings! For a scant $986 each, come to Honeyrun and buy yourself some new bees!

I'll even make you a deal. For you, gentle reader, mention this add and we'll skip the red tape. We'll bypass the middleman. Let's just make it an even $900. What a deal! Whaddya say? You're saving BIG BUCKS! Think about it!

(Plus 7% sales tax.)

(Cash only please.) 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Yes! Fer Cryin' Out Loud, we have Comb Honey!

-Posted by Isaac

Happy happy.

Inspired almost. Ha ha.

I think the first question came in mid-April. "Do you have comb honey yet?"
We were of course sold out.
We're always sold out. I don't think we've ever made it past midwinter with cut comb sections. It's a hot item.

So I patiently explain that it may be a wait. "I don't know... maybe by the middle of July?"

Then July comes and here come the questions. In rapid fire.
Sometimes I'm patient, sometimes not so much. (As some of you can attest.)
"Nope, no comb..."

See, it's not like I can just snap my fingers and make an arbitrary comb honey deadline.

There are a few tricks to producing comb honey, but it's not like it's a heavily guarded trade secret. You beekeepers who want to know more about it should look up Richard Taylor... you'll have all you care to digest and more.
I'm not going to get into the details.

Two critical components to comb honey production are:
1. Strong bees
2. Strong nectar flow

Even if you've built your bees up to the verge of swarming, you need a steady and extended nectar flow to make anything happen.
If you have the kind of rainy, spotty summer like we've had, you end up with a lot of half filled frames.

Half filled frames only get you a bunch of chunk honey.

Which is pretty...

but those of you at the farm markets have seen quite enough of this.

To make the beautiful full squares of cut comb, you just have to wait... for more dry weather, for more nectar flow.

We finally got what we needed. So sorry about the wait. But you'll need to take your complaints up with a higher authority.


We're now in the process of processing. He he.

I try to stress "Pretty" to Maggie and the gang. "Pretty" is what we're going for here. Pretty sells.

West Side Story plays in the background. Maria sings "I feel pretty."
Then the Sharks and the Jets come on. Maggie and Henry start fighting.

Comb honey gets chaotic.
Pretty on the Ross Rounds also. Although most of these boxes still remain on the hives.

Hopefully we can get them filled out in the next week or two.

The comb all gets packed and put into the freezer.

Later to be taken out, labeled, and put in front of your long expectant eyes at the market.

See you there!