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. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

November Farm journal, 124

 Monday I got my first acupuncture - it was a little scary but not painful and I had an amazing visualization initially of being an insect pinned to a board - which sounds awful but was more intriguing than anything - and near the end had a visceral visualization of being a caterpillar forming a cocoon and then beginning to form wings. 

I felt lighter leaving the session and better overall. Yesterday I had the brilliant idea to give away the plethora of extra goldenrod coming up (that I really needed to clear out)  to local beekeepers if they would come and dig them out. Today four people came by, we all wore masks, and I spent the entire day doing gardening and hanging out while they got their goldenrods. It was a super fun day, with great conversations and in some way seemed to mark a shift in my overall mood toward (a new) normal. Masks - yes - but still, social interaction. 

I feel that the acupuncture is a big part of this happening.

Thankfully my farm helpers worked hard on Tuesday doing a lot of weeding in the pollinator beds and finishing up the work under the deck in the back yard. As always, there are more projects than I can tackle, but today I was able to start the process of transplanting some extra growth from one side of our front sidewalk to the other side. I hope I can move one species across a day, and extend the visual field of that pollinator bed across the sidewalk as a continuation. I need to take some photos to show this, and I will if I can remember to stop and do it while doing the work.

Everything is coming in nicely so far. I’ve gotten on the mulch delivery list early and will try to get these beds cleared of winter foliage, weeds, and mulched before the end of this month! I’ll make that goal thanks to my helpers, who work like speed demons compared to me. :)

The herd will be moving to night-time turn-out soon. Rafer’s grazing muzzle has been fitted and he accepted it without any drama. It is light in weight and not restrictive for air flow, and he seemed fine grazing with it. Unfortunately, the halter size that I thought would fit the donkeys is too small, so Rafer went into the pony size and now I have to order two more pony size halters. This weekend we have to get the track set up now that everything has arrived.

We’re in the throes of pollen season now and it’s a mess already! Will get worse before it gets better, but I’m so happy to see leaves on trees and green and spring, I won’t complain. 

Too much to do, too little time, but I love that today I got some work done and also took the opportunity to enjoy great conversations and camaraderie with several very interesting beekeeping gardening women. Joy!

Sunday, April 04, 2021