Monday, October 14, 2013


So I mentioned (in my Honey post, about our extraction party) how we noticed that our bees were being robbed. Bees from surrounding hives were taking advantage of weakness in our hive and robbing them blind, leaving them honeyless for the winter. It didn't help that we took seven pounds from them - but better us get some than those nasty thieves! We assumed this was most certainly a death sentence for our colony. It still might be, they might be done for, but we are trying to take a stand against those bees. So how can you help a colony that is under attack???
Lessons we've learned:
1) Entrance Reducer: we did not have an entrance reducer on our hive - we had left the entire width of the hive open, leaving roughly 18 inches of space that the guard bees have to defend. It's just too hard for a hive that is already in jeopardy. Our hive kit came with a wooden entrance reducer that allows us to select various sizes of entrance - we chose the smallest size, approximately an inch, thus giving the guard bees a significantly smaller space to defend.
2) FEED!: we need to replace that honey that they've lost. It's not as simple as giving them back their honey (plus, we want to enjoy the fruits of their labor) we need to give them a replacement food source. The easiest way to give them instant food is making a 2:1 sugar/water mix. We put 4 cups of sugar in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and dissolved the sugar. Once the mixture cooled a bit, we poured it into a ziplock bag and took it to the hive. We added a super on top of the hive and placed the baggie of sugar water on top of the frames below. We jabbed a few holes into the bag, so the bees can access that food and hopefully calm them down a bit.
3) Continued Feeding: Since we don't have an actual "feeder" we ordered a hive component that is specifically for feeding (to replace the baggie, a more permanent/reusable option) - hopefully that will arrive shortly. Additionally, we need to find a food source that isn't just sugar/water. Bees need a well balanced diet too, while they may survive on carbs (like we would with bread and water), they won't be as healthy as they could be. We've found a couple of recipes - I'm not sure what the best option would be.
We are thinking of doing something like this for the water:
:: 5 cups water
:: 2 1/2 pounds of sugar
:: 1/8 teaspoon lecithin granules (used as an emulsifier)
:: 15 drops spearmint oil
:: 15 drops lemongrass oil
Additionally, they need a protein source. I've been looking online and I think we are going to try something like this:
Makes 6 (1 lb) patties:
3/4 C. pollen
2 1/2 C. hot water
5 1/2 C. sugar
6 1/3 C. brewer's yeast
Perhaps add some Vitamin C to the mix? I'm not sure. But we should be able to mix this into a thick substance and roll it into patties. We can put one on the hive and save the rest in the freezer, until we need it.
We want strong, survival of the fittest bees - we want to help them come along, but they should be able survive without medication etc.
We'll let you know how things go and if they survive the winter then we'll be looking for a strong hive for next year. If they don't make it, we'll know that we gave them a fighting chance and will start again with a new colony (or three!).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cora's Egg Salad

So this family...we're big fans of egg salad sandwiches, and now that we have eggs galore, we thought we'd make up a batch of Cora's famous egg salad. We let our kids find and try out recipes and this one just stuck - it's so so good.
We took 18 of our farm fresh eggs and boiled them up - we increased this recipe by 1/2 and it was gone by the next day!!! YUM!!

½ C. Mayonnaise
1 ½ tbsp Dill
1 Small Chopped Onion
1 ½ Tbsp Chopped Pickles
1 ½ Tbsp Mustard
½ tsp Pepper
¼ tsp Salt
12 Eggs

Hard boil the eggs. While you are waiting for the eggs, mix all other ingredients together in a medium size bowl. Once eggs are hard boiled, peel and chop eggs into small bits. Add eggs to mayo mix. You can eat right away, but it’s even better the next day.

The trickiest part of the whole process is boiling/peeling fresh eggs. Did you know that the eggs that you get from the store are usually a week or two old? The bonus about older eggs is that they are easier to peel. Since our eggs are just a couple days old - if we were to boil our eggs the standard way, it would be hard to peel and we'd lose a lot of the whites, since they'd peel off with the shell. So I searched the interwebs to find the perfect way to boil fresh eggs and found it HERE!! Let me tell you - it worked! Our eggs came out beautiful - beautiful enough to use for deviled eggs! I'll never go back to the old way!

Friday, October 4, 2013


Part of what we are doing here at Fresh Egg's Farm is not only learning for ourselves, but sharing with others. It's so neat to open our home up to people that are interested in beekeeping themselves or just want to learn about the process. This past Sunday we had our first ever Honey Extraction Party!!! Including our family, we had about 20 people here, all seated around our dining room table (so happy our dining room can fit all those people!) - listening and learning. We brought out our gear and broke down a beeless hive. We talked about some of the problems that bees/hives/colonies can have, in general, and problems we've had specifically with our bees.
If you've read this blog or followed along on Facebook, you've seen some of the problems we've experienced with our bees...we started this Spring with two hives, two nuks - a "nuk" is a five frame mini-hive. Essentially, we purchased two somewhat existing hives in order to give them a head start - they were to have a working queen, brood (bee babies), built out frames and we were to add them to a 10-frame hive and start from there. We had started with what we called "the good hive" and "the bad hive". Needless to say the bad hive had a failure to launch. We tried to feed them, add bees and requeen and nothing seemed to work for them...and one day, they completely collapsed. Within a two week period we went from "maybe they have a chance" to dead, gone, robbed (by other bees). It was sad, but at least we had this other hive, the good hive, that seemed to be going gangbusters. They took advantage of the Spring honey/nectar flow and built out some of their hive with honey, instead of brood. They were strong. It was fascinating to watch the front of their hive - always bustling with activity. Just a couple of weeks prior to the extraction party, we pulled out these beautiful capped frames. The super (the top honey storage box that contains short frames, which makes for easier handling and extraction) was FILLED with honey, so much so that we put on another box, just in case. There were many deep frames that were filled with honey too. When I talked to the leader of our beekeeping club, he estimated that there would be 20-25 pounds of honey in the super and about 9 pounds of honey PER FRAME of the deeps that we had. He suggested that we pull out 4 of them and extract the honey out. Doing that kind of math, my eyes turned golden at the thought that we might be pulling 50-60 POUNDS of honey off this hive. What an amazing extraction party that would be - we'd have plenty of honey to harvest, store for ourselves, share with others and perhaps even sell.
I went home and put on a bee escape - which is essentially a board that has a circle on the top and a maze of sorts on the bottom - the bees are able to crawl down, but can't figure out their way back up (in theory). We went the next morning to pull off the super and those 4 deep frames and were disappointed. The bee escape seemed to work - many of the bees were out of the super and the job of pulling off those frames was fairly easy - but as we started to work through the super, we noticed that the frames weren't fully capped, as they had been. Almost like the bees had started to break into their honey storage already - which didn't make sense. This honey was just meant as reserves and shouldn't be touch unless the bees have gone through their winter storage below and are in desperate need of honey.
As we started to go through the deep - we noticed how light it was, each frame we pulled out was nearly empty. WHAT HAPPENED!?!?!? We were saddened and confused and were having an extraction party the next day and what if we had NO honey to share. We watched the front of the hive to see if we could see something, a clue as to what was going on. After closer inspection, we noticed strange behavior - there seemed to be a wrestling match on the"landing pad" of the hive. Bees were literally pinning each other down and throwing each other down and kicking some of the bees out of the hive. Our hive was being robbed. Jerks. Apparently there is a strong colony (maybe a feral one??) nearby and found our hive, that since they we are a newer hive (weaker hive), the stronger colony decided to take advantage of this "free honey source" and attached our hive. Ugh. Heartbreak. At this point, I don't think there is anything we could do. It's so late in the season to try to requeen (did I mention that the queen is gone from this hive too). We've learned some valuable lessons from beekeeping this year. I know some things that we'll do different next year. Yes, we've already decided that there will be a next year. We enjoy the bees. And now, more than ever, we realize how fragile these beautiful pollinators are. We plan on expanding our hives and building out three hives/colonies for next year (at least that is the plan).
We debated not having the party - but then thought, no, this happened for a reason. This is a way to share the message about how fragile bees are, to talk about the importance of these pollinators for our food. Without bees, we don't eat.
So friends, old and new, and even some strangers, who became friends, came to our home, on a rainy Sunday afternoon and talked animals, birds and bees (get your mind out of the gutter :-) ).
Here are some photos from the day:
Talking about the frames and breaking down the hive.

Here's a deep frame, with foundation only.

Notice the deep gouges in the wax? This isn't good - I'm not sure if this is from the robbing activity or if something else is happening. That a question for beekeeping club.

Uncle Dave and Cousin Rhett - checking out the frames.

My girl, Lissa. See the mess that something made on that frame. Frustrating.

Josh holding up a frame of foundation only and another frame that has comb and honey. Definitely a surprising difference in weight.

Lissa, modeling the capped honey frame vs foundation only frame.

Mark - making sure that the extraction is put together correctly. In the forefront, you can see some of hive tools, including our beloved smoker.

Super Model! I should have put this on and modeled my lovely beekeeping attire, but it was hot and frankly - I know it isn't a good look for me. LOL
Mark, modeling his classy member only/london fog 80's style jacket that he wears for beekeeping. SEXY!

Our beekeeping club has three different ways to uncap the cells - a heat gun, a heat knife and a standard serrated. They wanted us to test which way we liked best. This is me demonstrating the heat gun - it worked well. It uncapped without too much damage to the cells. The con: it's nice to have some cappings - why? it offers a nice taste of honey (kinda like wax bottles from when we were kids) and it you'd like to make candles etc. it provides you with a collection of wax to save up. It also uses electricity and our goal is to minimize our electricity usage. So while this is a good option, we probably won't utilize it.

A nice view of the heat gun uncapping.

Almost ready for the extractor.

Mark using the heat knife. This seems to be somewhat of the standard these days. We aren't fans. It doesn't really add anything to the experience for us. It cuts similar to the standard knife and if we needed heat, we could place the standard knife in warm water in between cutting.

Mark using the standard knife. Our favorite. It's natural. It's non-electric. It does the job.

Asking if anyone else wants to try uncapping - Emily (our new friend and photographer - THANKS EMILY!!!!) was the first taker.

Beautiful job Emily!

Look at those wax caps just rolling down the frame. MMMM!

We collected the wax cappings in a bowl and shared with everyone around the table.

Lissa digging in and uncapping.

Here's a look inside the extractor - bits of wax stuck on the sides - but if you look at all that golden liquid on the bottom - that is PURE, RAW, AS LOCAL AS YOU CAN GET HONEY!!!! From our backyard!!!!!!

Another honey picture! Look at that rich, golden color. Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?? This is such an excited sight to us.

The bottom of the extractor has a gate on it - it allows us to easily pour the honey out of the extractor and strain it through two levels of strainer. If you are doing this on your own - make sure that the bucket you pour into is a food grade bucket.

This picture, excites me, makes me proud, makes me hungry :-) I love watching the honey flow out. It's just gorgeous!

Our new friends Emily and Little D :-) Modeling our takeway honey bears. He was so excited to have his very own bear filled with honey. CUTE!!!!
SO where did we end up? We got just over 7 pounds of honey. Not the 50-60 pounds that we could have had, but still seven more pounds of backyard honey than we had last year. Everyone that came to the party got one of these two ounce bears to take home and these are the leftovers. We figured we'd give one to each neighbor and have honey for us. I am thankful to the bees that worked so hard for this honey. I'm thankful for the roomful of friends and family that came and shared this experience with us. I look forward to next year!!!!!!