Category Archives: Bees

Mrs. Winchester – Today

People acquainted with me know about “the list”.  We bought an older home that needed a “few” repairs.  The punch list was 100 items long, my beloved completed the first 25 and then was promoted to work full-time for Jesus.  That left me with 75 items and very few skills.  I have drive, determination, an advisor and WiFi.

I watch a lot of fix it shows on Dish and even more You Tube videos on “how to”.  Once I have gained enough knowledge to ask intelligent questions, I ask my advisor Dahve what he thinks.  He thinks I’m funny.  I’m really not trying to be.

So there is always construction going on since it takes me forever to complete even a simple task.  Sustainable construction is the newest catch phrase.  I’m good with that, I need raised garden beds and I have this pile of old wood.  I can do that.  Sigh, it takes me an hour to pull the nails, scrape off the foam and get one long board ready to cut down for a garden bed.  I have two completed and need at least two more.  It was a little disappointing not to have something completed so I installed my rain gutter garden on the shady side of the house and planted my parsley and cilantro seedlings.  It looks a little wavy so I probably should have used more than four washers and screws.  I got a little distracted with the camera and thought you would enjoy my Cardoon (or cardonni) plants in bloom.  They are not artichokes, which are cultivated for the bulb, but are in the same family.  I can’t possibly eat all of this but I did discover the single ladies (chickens) love, love, love the seeds that hide in the dried thistle.  If you look close, you can find more than one or two of my bees nestled down in the purple fluff searching for pollen.  Guaranteed pollination!  Cardoon is an Italian veggie and you eat the celery looking stalks which does taste like artichokes, yum!  Hope you enjoy.





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Chicken Surgery – Could You?

When I think about doing surgery on a chicken I think chicken breast filet, not sewing one up!  I have butchered (or harvested for you gentler souls) many a chicken growing up.  We raised them for food.  Our eggs did not come out of a Styrofoam container that went to the landfill.  They came fresh from the hen house every day.  I would collect them from the nesting boxes and they would still be warm.

My current brood consists of two White Leghorns, two Great Blacks and one Rhode Island Red.  The chickens were a solution to a lawn mite problem I had.  I do not want to use any harmful pesticides or herbicides that might harm my bee hives.  When my daughter asked for chickens I immediately thought, no more bugs!  My yard is completely fenced and there is plenty of room for the birds to roam and not get bored to destructive behaviors.  The chickens became my Integrated Pest Management System, sans chemicals!

My bedroom is the closest to the hen house and I can tell the difference between happy chickens and a viscous attack.  It was late at night a week ago and I had already gone to bed.  The almost newlyweds were finishing up a movie in the den.  The chickens sounded the alarm and I jumped out of bed and yelled down the hall while I grabbed my robe and flip flops.  We keep a couple of mag lights on hand for emergencies (a must in the prep department) and we grabbed them and ran out to the hen house.  My daughter grabbed a rake on her way.

The hen house is constructed so a lady of a certain age can easily take care of the egg collection and house maintenance.  The nesting boxes are in the front and the roosting bars are in the back.  The front half wall lifts up for easy egg collection.  The right side wall drops down and will slope into a wheelbarrow or 5 gallon bucket for fertilizer collection.  My daughter, who jumps and squeals at the sight of a spider, was leaning into the hen house and beating an opossum when I reached them.  The poor opossum never had a chance.  He was caught in the act of holding Emily Rose by the drumsticks and biting her back with his long teeth!

A word about opossums: they are mean and will attack anything when sick or threatened, they have long teeth and sharp claws, they carry diseases like rabies and they are blind in bright light.  You should stay away from them as they will attack you.  (And yes, I have seen a rabid opossum!)  An aggressive opossum is either threatened or sick.  They don’t normally dine on live chickens.

My timid daughter was beating the opossum off her chicken with the rake handle with all her might.  I left them to go back to the safe and pick up an opossum equalizer.  I encouraged him to meet his maker and turned around to find my daughter holding Emily Rose and crying her eyes out.  Mister disposed of the offending aggressor while I outlined daughter’s options.  Because Emily Rose was attacked by a possibly diseased animal, we can’t eat her.  (loud sobbing)  I could put her out of her pain quickly (louder sobbing).  We could take her to a vet (something I hated to say due to the cost) or, she could use that $50,000 per med education I paid for to try and stitch her up herself. (after my initial examination to determine survivability)

She voted to un-filet the chicken.  Out came the first aid supplies and the Lidocaine that I had left over from my round of strep throat.  Trim the feathers, 15 minutes.  Clean out the debris, 1 hour.  Hands shaking relief, 15 minutes.  Sewing, 1 hour.  Mister held Emily Rose down with his mighty hands and whispered sweet nothings to soothe her.  I was the surgical nurse and threaded silk thread through beading needles, the smallest I had, and made sure the area was sterile.  It was an exhausting two hours, physically and emotionally.  The surgeon had to stop and wipe the tears from her eyes occasionally. What I thought was an above-average amount of medical supplies was sadly depleted in one episode. The injury was severe but certainly not bloody. If this had been a human injury, there would have been much more blood loss.

I am happy to say Emily Rose only spent two days in the CCU (chicken care unit, aka bathtub).  She quickly moved up to a cardboard box and the third day was ready to rejoin her sisters.  Her first day outside was stressful and she needed to spend the night back in the CCU, strictly because she has no feathers on her backside to keep her warm and the hen house was looking way too scary.  The second night she decided the hen house was looking better and she put herself to bed.

Daughter has added much more bio material to the nest boxes so Emily Rose can snuggle down and keep warm.  Chickens give off a lot of heat!

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t let any waste accumulate, it attracts predators.
  2. Don’t get emotionally attached to your food.
  3. I don’t have enough medical supplies.



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Daily Prompt: Barter System

I have great fun with my minimal bartering attempts. I offer goods as well as services. I have been extremely successful in teaching Microsoft Office applications in 1:1 sessions as well as teaching basic sewing, quilting, knitting and crochet. The goods I have successfully exchanged are handmade items from the previous list as well as honey from my backyard bee hives and products made from beeswax. We also make homemade jams and jellies. I stopped buying expensive gifts when my Christmas list topped 40 and started giving homemade gifts and the recipients often asked for more, opening the door to bartering. The key to success is to offer a quality product or service. I have bartered for oil changes, car washes, housekeeping help, yard work and electrical work. This year I added hens to my little plot of urban land (yes it is zoned for my 1 acre parcel). I hope to add eggs to my list of barter items. I say think outside the box and be creative about how you can exchange something for equal value.

I needed a two motion detecting floodlights installed. I knew who I would like to accomplish the work and also knew that he needed more beekeeping equipment. I watched the sales and purchased two supers at a drastically reduced price. I used cash from the sales of my honey to capture this bargain. I waited until one of my sources called to say they had a large swarm that needed removal. I gifted my electrician friend with the swarm (around 80K bees) and the two new supers in exchange for my two lights. He was extremely happy and so am I. No actual cash exchanged hands but I had to use a small amount of cash from my barter stash to catch the sale. I had the equipment on hand and created an urgent need for that equipment. How sweet it is!

How to Value Your Barter Items?  One hours work = one hours work, stop thinking in terms of dollars.  How would you value 80K of feral bees that someone really wanted off their front porch.  Depends, my friend had bees already so he really didn’t need the bees.  Want, but not need, he did need the equipment, especially when I gave him the bees, it took him 2 hours work to install the two lights.  The homeowner had an urgent need to have the bees removed.  He owes me!  Hmmmmm, I am of Italian desent and you might ask “Do we understand bartering on a genetic level?”  Hold a favor, don’t owe one!

Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

If the world worked on a barter system, how would you fare? Would you have services to barter? Would you be successful, or would you struggle?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SKILL.

Market scene in the souks

There are some countries that work on a barter system. Remembering my week’s stay in Marrakesh, Morocco it was a real eye opener. You could buy everything in the souks/market in that town, but there were no prices shown. Mr. Swiss decided to buy a carpet: one of those hand woven Bedouin carpets that are used probably for a sleeping camel to lay on. The carpet looked very nice (we still have it somewhere in the cellar) and so we decided, yes that’s the thing, not heavy and rolled up it would be easy to get through customs. It was then the problems began.

“How much” we asked (Mr. Swiss asked, his French was better than mine).


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Success! Homemade Solar Wax Reducer!

I told myself when I began my beekeeping hobby that I would not spend a lot of money on it.  Right!  Have you told yourself that before?  I have spent a lot more than I ever thought I would.  The sales of honey don’t quite match up to what I spend somehow.  Beekeepers must love the hobby to say involved.  I have plenty of family and friends who like to help me consume my honey and it does make a wonderful gift.  I love the wax as well.  The candles smell yummy, even when they are not burning.  When they are burning, I don’t have to worry about the wax dripping.  It also makes great soap.

Separating the wax from the unusable debris and any residual honey is a messy, time consuming process.  After rendering the wax in my kitchen I began my research into doing it outside of my kitchen!  I really wanted to go solar but everything I was finding was costly.  I just didn’t want to spend the money.  I found a YouTube video that was close to what a wanted but was still too complicated.  So I came up with my own design.  It has worked great, cost under $5.00, and I can do it outside.

The materials I used were a purchased Styrofoam cooler, a black trash bag, some painters tape, a piece of clear Lexan I had in the garage, a small black lasagna frozen food tray, and an aluminum cake pan.  I lined the cooler with the black trash bag and then taped it around the outside of the cooler to hold it down.  I fit the frozen food tray into the cooler to catch the clean wax.  Then, I punched holes in the bend of one short side of the cake pan with a fine tapestry needle (not a small as a hand sewing needle but not a large as a wool darning needle).  I fit the pan inside the cooler at an angle and taped the un-punched side to the top edge allowing the punched side to hang above the frozen food tray.  The wax cappings were dropped in the top part of the cake pan and the Lexan was just laid over the top.

I went away and left it alone and came back the next day.  Sweet!  The clean wax had melted and collected in the frozen food tray along with some excess honey.  The debris was left behind in the cake pan which I have been able to reuse several times before cleaning or throwing away.

This method has been great and allows me to process wax when I pull one or all ten frames of honey from a hive.  The bag did melt in one place but I’m still happy with this method!

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Note to Self: Wear Gloves!

This post from May 10th got lost in the draft bin but I thought it was useful so here it is!

Sorry for the delay in posts.  My truck has a new battery, my new swarm has a new hive box and home and are very happy.  In the process of relocating the bees to the stand at 10:30 p.m., I noticed some leaves had blown around the legs of the stand.  I reached down and swept them away and as I did so I thought to self, self you really should be wearing gloves for this, it’s awfully dark.  Ouch!  Was that a stick that poked me? 

No it wasn’t a stick, my biology friend went through the entomology of insects with me and determined I had been bitten by a Jumping Spider, technically non-venomous.  Side effects included a right hand the size of a boxing glove, headaches, muscle pain, nausea and last blackish swollen feet.

I did not have a bull’s eye wound, no oozing, no tracing and the swelling went down nicely.  I guess I should count myself lucky that it wasn’t something really nasty.  Still a little bloaty but all the other symptoms are gone, gone, gone.

Did you ever do something and as you were doing it thought to yourself, I shouldn’t be doing this?

More time to read!

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 I’ve been meditating on the word hope lately.  There are so many people struggling with life out there finances, jobs, relationships, emotions and just fear in general.  So much fear… I have always had a deep and abiding faith Christ, even as a child.  I know that this faith is a gift from God now that I have lived life a bit and can see my sunset, hopefully from a distance.  I desperately miss my beloved but I have hope that I will see him again.  Some days the pain of separation is so great I truly do feel like I’m in the middle of a soul shattering earthquake.  More days than not my emotions are better and I can feel the hope.  I’ve had to wear big girl pants most days now and can’t afford to allow myself the luxury of too many pity parties or a slide into depression. 

My truck had a dead battery and I need to transport a new swarm capture.  (Moving bees in the passenger compartment is not recommended!)  The timing was not good; it never is, especially when dealing with wild animals and insects.  The pressure of a daily schedule, of the need to pick up my new capture, the help that wasn’t helpful and enough clutter from a busy life and schedule almost did me in.  I sent the “help” away and still wearing my big girl pants got the truck started, late, but start it did.

Today is a new day, I drove the truck, have nothing scheduled tonight and will pick up the bees after work!  I woke up this morning with a scripture reference running through my head.  I do not have tons of scripture memorized, I don’t beat people up with a Bible or any religious book so I was surprised that Galatians 3:9 would not go away.  I was clueless what it was so, I looked it up.  “So then those who are of faith are blessed.”

Hope, could that be the shield against today’s anxieties and depressions.  Faith, trusting that God is still in control as America (and myself) are not.  I am truly a blessed woman, counting my blessings and looking at the full glass (it is never really half full) overflowing, pressed down for full measure.  It’s spring and the promise of forgiveness and renewal can be seen everywhere.  Now that I have been relocated to an inside office and lost my big picture window to the world, I go outside every day, close my eyes and lift my face to the sun.  My doctor said it was good for me!  It is!  Be kind and gentle to yourself my blogging friends, you are the best friend you will ever have.  Where is your hope?  I challenge you to do some senseless kind thing for yourself and for one other person each day.  No matter how small or how great, to quote Nike, just do it.

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The Queen is Born – Long Live the Queen (Bee)


I confess to ignoring my Bee yard during the time that I was having difficulty doing basic tasks after the death of my husband. I lost three hives, I believed I lost four. (Two to ant invasion, one to moths) All something that an attentive beekeeper would have prevented with easy mechanical means. This video chronicles my attempt to split a hive by digging through the packed brood cells and cutting off a queen cell. Something I was not looking forward to doing and as it turns out, I didn’t have to!
Great footage of the inside of a healthy hive.


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Bees – How Sweet They Are

Bees in Hive Box with 2 Supers

Bees in Hive Box with 2 Supers

Last night I finally gave up procrastinating and made the trek, all 150′ of it, to check on my Bees. It’s a good thing I did, No danger of colony collapse disorder here! More like danger of swarm because there was NO ROOM left in the hive box. Full to capacity with wax, honey and of course beeeezz. I pulled about 30 lbs. as a band aid last night and gave them another Super to roam in. I scraped out the honey and comb from the frames I pulled and will give the frames back to the hive box tonight. The bees clean up the frames of left over honey and wax and begin again. I love watching them as they lick up the honey. These are Italian bees, what else would I have? They are so soothing. I love putting my hands on the sides of the hive in the hot summer and feeling the life inside as they fan their wings to cool the box.
I think my bees just might have to play a supporting role in my little romance story.

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Bees – I’ve Been Framed

This is a photo of a full “frame” of honey, notice how they start building “outside of the frame”. I would have been very unhappy if I had waited another week and they all swarmed away. The ladies are much happier now they have room to grow in!Full frame with few bees 9-17-11

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