Sunday, May 16, 2021

Arcadia update

 So, the day after Hegemone 1 swarmed, they seem to have gone back into their hive boxes. I have been researching this, trying to figure out what is going on. Apparently, sometimes they do a practice swarm, but if that was the case, they probably would have done the real swarm yesterday, and they did not.

I also read that sometimes when a virgin queen goes on her mating flight, the workers come out and fly with her, sometimes forming a swarm until she returns. It’s possible this was the case, but with so many bees in that hive it’s hard for me to imagine they didn’t have the original Hegemone queen when we did the split back in April. 

In any case, they are back in the hive as of yesterday afternoon. I checked all the hives to see how things were going. Mnemosyne, the bait hive now in new/permanent location, is busy. Hegemone 2 is busy and booming. Hegemone 1 busy and booming. Echo is busy. Artemis is still super slow but I do still see a little activity and I know the hive is full of bees. 

In a continuation of drama though, the tree where the bait hive was until we moved it had two black snakes lounging in the place where the hive had been, with about 15 bees buzzing about! It was enough like a rain forest jungle that I called the dogs to me and we left Poplar Folly!

Here’s to spring and all the stuff happening on the farm. :)

Friday, May 14, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 128

 We’re having some drama on the farm this week. First, Cody came in Wednesday morning with a left front leg looking elephantine, so we had the vet out. Skin infection! Never seen this in all these years with horses. He got a very well-done leg wrap, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, and thankfully Thursday morning the leg was about 65% better when we removed the wrap. By today when the vet came for acupuncture on Keil Bay and the Mystic kit-meow, Cody was about 90% better. So, we’ll keep rolling with his meds and I’m grateful this has resolved so quickly for him.

Good drama with the Big Handsome Bay: he is off all NSAIDs, had a great chiro adjustment last week, a great hoof trim yesterday, a great acupuncture today, and is now doing his big swinging panther walk again for the first time since last October. I am so happy I contacted a saddle fitter today to come and adjust his saddle JUST IN CASE there may be good days ahead to do some walking together in the arena. I also scheduled a saddle trial for a new dressage saddle for Cody. He can use the work, I can too, and we need a well-fitting saddle just for us. 

Bee drama: my husband heroically moved the bait hive box with bees inside from the tree to its new location last night. This morning, in an unrelated event, Hegemone 1 swarmed and my son captured it on video. I would share it but there were some choice words being said as he watched this huge huge huge number of bees swirling through the air from the hive to the top of an adjacent tree where they still were last time I checked. It was quite a sight. 

They’re way too high up to consider capturing, so this is my gift to the feral bee world. I hope they find a good place to live. They have super genetics!

This creates a brood break for the remaining Hegemone 1 colony which should effectively lower any varroa mite counts, and I’m now officially on the Tom Seeley method of beekeeping, which is one deep brood box plus one medium super for honey plus letting these swarms happen as the bees see fit. 

And for the grand finale of November Hill drama, a pair of black snakes right below our honeybee watering stations, mating. So long, copperheads that may want to move in! We have a slither of black snakes coming soon!

Thursday, May 06, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 127

 This week we had one near-90 degree day and Hegemone 1 did this:

It’s called bearding, and honey bees do it (generally) when they are trying to cool the hive to keep the brood at the right temperature. On this hot/humid day these girls removed themselves and their body heat so the bees left inside could maintain the proper environment for brood health. I continue to be amazed at the innate knowledge honey bees possess. It’s fascinating to watch them. 

On Saturday we got our new nuc, which was a bit of a drama because the nuc had opened up and there was a cloud of a hundred of more bees outside the nuc when my husband went to pick it up. There’s no way to get them back inside, so he had to cover the nuc with a tarp and bring them home. I hope the workers left behind integrated with another colony. We set the nuc on top of the waiting Echo hive box, opened their entrance the rest of the way, and left them be until yesterday when we installed them into their permanent home. I hope they settle in and get to work during the peak of our tulip poplar nectar flow!

Also, in an exciting turn of events, we had a swarm move into our bait hive last Thursday! This is possibly the most exciting bee event I’ve been party to thus far, though I didn’t actually see the swarm move in. We’ve left them to settle in. The bait hive in our case is actually an 8-frame deep hive box, so we won’t have to move them out of there, but will simply take the box down and put it in its permanent location when we think they’re ready. Which is in itself a guessing game!

I just remembered I need to buy a hive stand to put them on. This colony is named Mnemosyne, who was the goddess of Memory. Once we get them set up, that should be it for the big stuff this spring and summer seasons. Artemis is still going, not exactly strong, but they seem to be hanging in there. If the Echo nuc thrives the way I’ve been told they will, we plan to take frames of eggs and brood and nurse bees and move them to Artemis to help get them fully on track. We’ll see how that goes.

In other news, we’re gradually managing the outside projects that always get ahead of us this time of year. I’ve mowed the buttercups in the pastures once, and my husband mowed the grass paddock yesterday. Our weed-eater suddenly needed work, so it’s in the shop and I have a very lightweight electric one that I plan to use for my own small chores. Hopefully on Friday we’ll get the weed-eating done and the annual poison ivy removal done.

Our way-back fencing is about 90% complete. There’s one small section that was confusing and we’ve had to figure it out on the fly, but that will be completed Tuesday and we can check that whole thing off our list. 

Our upstairs front window replacement scheduled for yesterday was canceled at the last minute by the company, and is now rescheduled for May 17th. We’re on the list for top to bottom exterior painting and the HVAC guy is coming today to look at our 26-year old attic unit that will get replaced. Once these three tasks are done, I am calling it a done deal for home repair projects for the season. 

In the gardens:

I’ve planted three oakleaf hydrangeas, two new mountain mints, additional white wood aster, and we’ve put in tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers in the potager. We still have two wild plum trees and a persimmon tree to add to Poplar Folly and then I’m calling myself on adding anything else to the gardens until fall. (Even as I type this I realize I will probably break this pledge, so don’t be surprised when I do so!)

Everything is coming up beautifully and I’m very happy with the progress of my native plant transformation. 

Another thing I’m happy with is my gradual but effective process of getting the garage storage back in control. By sending a few things to the Habitat store or the dump each week I’ve managed to get things back in shape down there. My joke is that we have a general store in our garage, and it’s like taking inventory when I start clearing stuff out. 

I’ve also completed one closet update in the house. There’s another closet 50% done. And I am not sure I can take on the bedroom closet right now. I may save that for July when it’s too hot to do anything else. 

Oh, and one very fun announcement:

My prose poem Journey won third place in the NC Jung Society poetry contest! I’m super excited about it and happy to be included in the list of winners. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 126

 Here we are nearing the end of April - it’s been an odd month here weather-wise: dry, with some very hot days and some very cold nights. I put the house plants out on the deck and then had to bring them in for several days, which I rarely have to do. And pollen - I feel like my throat has been gravelly for weeks on end. 

At the other end of the conversation about April though, are lots of good things: plants coming back after the winter months, the early pollinator plants blooming, seeing the bayberries and winterberries leafing out and become more actively growing, and of course the green tree foliage that transforms November Hill into its most private, lush season. 


The herd: are all mostly shed out, though the donkeys always shed later so they still have some winter coat. Keil Bay is doing well. I slowly, slowly weaned him off the Equioxx to see if he was okay without it, and so far he seems to be. Equioxx is an NSAID and while I’ll put him back on it without a blink if needed, it can have side effects specifically to the liver and kidneys. So far his bloodwork has remained good but spring and summer are good months to see how he does off it. I did put him on Phytoquench, a supplement that has devil’s claw, which may be helpful, and if needed I’ll switch to a trial of PEA, which has been researched in horses with arthritic changes and I’ve heard good things about it. For now, he’s good, and the thing I see helping the most is his acupuncture. 

A quick segue to me - I’ve had 3 acupuncture treatments and while the first was the most dramatic, I definitely feel better overall. I have one more in the initial protocol, then we’ll move on to target specific issues. I’m getting used to the needles! It’s really kind of amazing given my phobia.

Back to the herd: we had ACTH levels checked for Keil, Cody, and Apache. Keil is right in the middle of normal range so his Pergolide is doing its job. Cody was a little higher in the normal range, so we’ll continue to keep an eye on his level. And Apache was in the range for PPID, so I have just spent the past 4 days tapering him up to therapeutic dosage which he reaches today. I used APF and will continue that for another few weeks as he stabilizes on his full dose. His winter hair was much longer in places than it’s ever been, and he has held on to his chest hair even though the rest of his body is now slick. I’m glad we caught this and got him on the medication.

PPID is fairly common in older horses, but can manifest in younger ones as well. It has its own host of symptoms that come along with it, but the scariest one to me is the compromised immune system which can leave your horse open to infections of all kinds, including things like EPM, which Keil Bay came down with last fall. 

For the most comprehensive info on PPID I highly recommend - the site lays out the basics, and if you join the email list, you will learn more than you ever thought possible about IR and PPID. If you have easy keepers, breeds prone to IR, seniors, or horses you intend to live with until they become seniors, this is the best info you’ll get on what to watch for and how to manage these conditions. I have good vets, but they have been happy to hear the info I’ve gleaned from being on this email list for years, knowing that one day this info would be something I needed. The info about tapering a horse onto Pergolide with APF is pure gold - it alleviates the main side effect of this medication, which seems to happen to some horses when they go straight onto a full dose. 

Dogs and cats are enjoying the season - the water hose is back in play and Clementine absolutely adores it. The Corgis are not much into water, but they have their own things to do when the full farm romps happen. 

The bees are hanging in there. Hegemone 1 and 2 are booming. Artemis seems quiet still but when we open the top to look in, there are many bees and they are busy. Both bait hives continue to be checked out but thus far no swarm has arrived to take residence. Our new nuc was delayed due to the very cold nights we had last week, but it should arrive this weekend. It’s going to be fun having 4 hives!

I’ve been busy with garden tasks, house projects, a few farm projects, and writing. I completed Flowering Plant Families, which was a great class and super interesting as I (slowly) make my way through the native plant studies program at the NC Botanical Garden. 

We’ve having a birthday party this weekend to celebrate all the April birthdays here - husband, daughter, Keil Bay, and Apache Moon. I’m grateful these four are in my life and happy to serve cake, ice cream, apples, and carrots to mark the occasion. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 125

 Another busy week on November Hill. I’ve been watching the bee hives closely after our runaway split + putting a frame of eggs/brood/nurse bees into Artemis hive. Every day things look a bit better.

Hegemone 2 (I’ve decided to keep the Hegemone split in the same name family for ease of tracking) never even slowed down. This is the upper deep hive box that we put on its own stand. We don’t know if the queen was in this box or the bottom box but both upper and lower had brood and eggs so... it will remain a mystery since we do not mark our queens. This hive is crazy busy right now - workers coming and going with pollen and nectar, drones flying, and orientation flights happening daily which is one sign of population growth. 

Here’s Hegemone 2:

As you can see, my colors are getting mixed and matched as we move forward in this beekeeping endeavor. The teal bottom is the stand with a screened bottom filled with 5 or so inches of forest floor “compost.” The darker hive box on top of that is the brood box - it was the upper deep on the old/original hive. We added a wooden slat queen excluder - it will discourage the queen from laying in the medium super above it but the slats are far enough apart that the workers don’t have to squeeze through (thus damaging their wings). On top of the medium super is our glass innercover which allows us to take the roof off and check things out without breaking the hive boxes apart and disrupting the propolis seals and the bees. It has screened holes for ventilation and for feeding during times that’s needed.

Hegemone 1 was moved to Echo hive’s old location. Because its activity slowed a bit when we moved it, I watched super closely to make sure I was seeing pollen going in. The first day was quiet, the second day a bit more activity, the third day that doubled, and today it is extremely busy. Nectar and pollen coming in, a few drones flying out, and orientation flights happening as well. I’m so relieved it’s doing well. One of these two hives is either raising a new queen or had one in the works already and in that case she could have gone on a mating flight and be preparing to lay her first eggs. 

Here’s Hegemone 1:

You can see the stand, the deep brood box, the queen excluder, the medium super, and the top. I’ve ordered a glass innerview cover for this hive and we’ll add it when it arrives. We put medium supers on both these hives because of the sheer number of bees the boxes had and because we’re rolling into our main nectar flow season. My only concern at this point is that we’re having three nights in the 40s coming up and I’m a little worried about that. They should be fine. 

We moved the bait hive sitting on the ground to its new location previously not used in our apiary. It’s ready for a swarm to move in, but if that doesn’t happen by April 24th, our new bee nuc will be moved into it. This is a new genetic line for us and is said to be gentle, quick to build up in the spring, and a huge honey producer. Supposedly it will build up so quickly we will need to do a split to get the swarm it would have cast. So we’ll be watching it very closely once it arrives.

I’m naming this hive Echo since it is technically replacing the Echo hive that was robbed and absconded last fall. It looks tiny here but will soon have a medium super, queen excluder, and innerview glass cover of its own. 

Finally, Artemis, our failing and queenless hive got its frame of eggs, brood, and nurse bees. If all went as hoped, the bees selected an egg and are raising a new queen, the brood is hatching out, and the nurse bees are now becoming foragers. Every day since the addition of the frame has been slow until yesterday when I saw a tiny bit of an uptick in activity. Today that has doubled or tripled. There’s still plenty that could go wrong with this rescue effort, but we’re hoping they make it. Some would say add another frame of eggs and brood and nurse bees each week until it’s up and running, and I have considered doing that, but since we split Hegemone, our strongest hive, I don’t want to now weaken those two splits by taking more bees from them. If Artemis is still struggling when it comes time to split the new Echo nuc, I’ll consider 

combining one of the split halves with Artemis. For now we’re watching and waiting. Artemis had two deeps and since the top one was nearly empty, we took it off to reduce the space this very small colony had to guard and protect. Now it’s a single deep with innerview glass cover and its top. Once they build out, if they succeed, we’ll add a medium super so they can work on putting resources up there for the dearth time this summer. This hive came from the same farm as Hegemone but was never as strong and maybe had an old queen from the beginning. We just don’t know. I’m rooting for them. 

The second bait hive in the tree is very busy with scout bees checking it out today. I’m very excited - it would be so cool to catch a swarm this way. We’ll see. Every day I’m walking down with binoculars to sit and watch and see what clues I can get from all the hives. It’s better than TV! 

In other news, with help, we have finished the deck work, got the camper cleaned out for spring, have a few small repairs (thinking of Shawn Colvin’s song here) to make inside, and got the garage swept and dewebbed. We’re about halfway done replacing some back of the farm fencing. 

Still to come this week is a load of mulch, a quote on the attic HVAC, and some work in the garden beds. 

Keil Bay has acupuncture tomorrow and it’s perfect timing, as he has been sticking his hind leg out again. He’s in good spirits, and all are in need of good baths, but we’ll wait for the 40s nights to pass before we have the first bath of the season spa day. 

All the rest of the menagerie are good, the humans are good, and wow - we will be all the way to May before we know it.