Sunday, August 30, 2009

Encapsulating August.

Chronological would not really be possible at this point without cross referencing, so - topics!  Compost, garden, bees and honey, wine, and house. 

The worms have really gone through their food lately. I added a full green bin today and was pleased to see how well the food is breaking down. I ran out of worm tea about a month ago, so it's good to see things going well.

Found this small white mushroom growing in the compost - cool! No idea what kind it is.

I've often seen these small brown-red things in the compost and hadn't given them a lot of thought. Since becoming a beekeeper, I've got varroa mites on the brain more. Is there any chance this is varroa? Looking through Worms Eat My Garbage, it looks like these may be beetle mites or mold mites. They seem a part of the compost, but I do wonder what they are.

Nothing jumped out at me when I opened the bin today, thankfully!

The transition between summer and fall is showing. Peppers and tomatoes are still ripening away, but the apples are quickly growing and ripening.

Our summer started out mild, and the tomatoes were slow to ripen. Recent increases in temp means that we've got plenty of juicy, sweet red tomatoes to eat. So worth the wait!

Recent transplants (lemon geranium and the lemon tree) are doing fine.

Also added a "bee bar". ;) Using a large old plant saucer and small pebbles left over from setting up an orchid, it's filled with water. The pebbles provide the bees footing so they can get sips of water.

The saucer is placed in a well protected and shady area. The neaby "Hot Lips" Salvia attracts big black bumble bees, so I want everyone to get their water.

and honey.
They've been busy! We've noticed thicker "bee clouds" around the hive on the hottest days. The hive entrance faces the corner of the fence, and we've wondered if the bees make this cloud to increase ventilation throughout the hive.

It does look like swarming bees, but honestly - if Urania swarmed every time there was a big bee cloud, it's doubtful we'd have a bee left.

The girls have been a bit short tempered. I've wanted to open up the inner cover to see how they are doing with the recent addition of the excluder, but they haven't been as patient as usual. I've also been moving about in street clothes, so I am more likely to back off quickly to avoid angering the hive and getting stung. We know drones got trapped between the excluder and inner cover when the excluder was put on. This, the hotter weather, the excluder, the recent harvest, the increase in racoon activity... there is too many things that could be getting their ire up.

Lots of activity!

The wind picked up this evening, cooling everything. The sun moved past the house, putting the hive in a bit of a shadow.

The hive is much quieter now. I've noticed the bees seem to sleep in later and turn in earlier in cooler weather, and stay out later and get up earlier if the weather is hot or humid.

The last honey harvest yielded about six gallons of honey (definitely five, plus a good deal more!) that went into bottles and our ten gallon plastic bucket for mead. This is our first mead. We boiled the honey to remove the scum (impurities, wax, etc), added water, and let it sit overnight. Yeast, yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, citric acid, and black tea (for tannins) was added. Being so used to fruit wines, it's interesting to see how wine developes with no fruit, seeds, or skins. It smells delicious. It sounds alive, with a constant fizz hum.

Finally, after we had harvested the honey last time, some of the bees thought that there were excellent stores of honey inside the house from a careless placement of the collecting tub too near the sliding glass door. Many bees got inside the house, and they unfortunately died from being trapped indoors, and frantically flying themselves to death. To help all parties, a screen door was added to the cat door. It took my little furry roommate a day to get used to the idea (like I told her - you'll decide if the discomfort of the screen is greater than the desire to go outside!), and she adjusted quickly. Not finding bees or flies in the house is well worth it.

This is why professionals are called. The bathroom sink has been draining so slowly and hasn't responded to vinegar & baking soda washes. I decided to give plumbing a go and clear the blockage myself. The entire job was successful and took about twenty minutes. Fifteen of those was convincing someone that really, it isn't interesting. The tub is not for you. This is not a new house. She kept trying to stand on the edge of the tub, causing it to flip up. This was *not* what I wanted to happen once the tub had water and hair clog in it! bleech!

Since it's cooled down, time to make some granola bars for the week.

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