I had such plans for the weekend. I am always amazed at how things turn around on me. First I got the mudroom ready for chicks.Dazee helped. Camera=Dazee. Sigh. Then we headed for Greenfield to attend the Greenfield Green Fair at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. I still dream of solar panels, just like I have since I was 10. Give us time...research, tax credits, maybe a little lessening of the cost of equipment. That'd help.
While I am waiting for solar panels and an off-grid lifestyle complete with SunFrost fridge, I bought some stuff to amuse me. There was a table selling Equal Exchange snacks - I got cranberries and pecans, and a chocolate bar for Gene (milk chocolate. ptooey!)Katy directed me to the Cheshire Gardens table where I TOTALLY SCORED their chili pepper mustard. It's really, really nice. I love it, and they're a mere fifteen minutes from here. We chatted with Traci who was selling her wares with some other local crafters. And of vital important I purchased Recycleze diapers for the future. Don't ask me why we do this, but someday Girl may spawn and when she does it'd be a lot easier if I had a collection in place. Super Cool Grandmother gives Super Cool Cloth All-In-Ones. Just wait. She wasn't here to buy one for herself, so I bought two; one on her behalf.By the way, I should interject here that my children wore old-fashioned pre-folds with pins and rubber pants. We didn't have this coolness.
We spent some time talking with Spartan of Co-op Power. Mr. W. then spent hours calculating potential savings of membership if he combines the discount on heating oil (which we use comparably little of, only a few hundred gallons a year) and potential savings on that solar system that I dream of.
Then we trotted to my mother's apartment to deliver a sewing machine table, chair, sewing machine and various associated gadgetry. She'd been given a Sears Kenmore portable machine a while back, and I brought it into the house Friday intending to oil it and get it working. That is until I discovered that it is missing parts available only from Sears, and only at a premium. So, Hello Kitty to the rescue! I knew buying that machine wasn't nearly as crazy as it seemed at the time. Now Hello Kitty lives at The Arbors, and mother is merrily sewing away. We headed home, but Mr. W. suddenly decided he wanted Mexican (What was I supposed to say? "No, no, honey. Stop. Don't take me to Mesa for lunch. Bad, bad man."!?).
Saturday evening we discussed plans for Sunday - remove center dividing wall of chicken house to make more floor space. The divider was for the turkeys, who are long gone. Assess the bee hive and determine what we need. Chill out on the deck.
Sunday dawned a bit colder than I wanted it to be. My fingers were cold, and I hate working with cold fingers; I also don't like gloves. We went to the garage to assess the hive situation. We talked about Getting the Bees, our fears about what to do, would we figure it out, would we kill them all, could we handle this. I generally reason that it can't possibly be as hard as keeping infants alive, and since I've proven I can do that, what's a few chicks, bees, whatever else you want to throw at me. Heck, I can even breed fish and keep lizards alive and that's not easy doings. I complained that we'd missed two classes already, and probably would miss more if we didn't get on it and make ourselves go. Mr. W. agreed that we needed to do something, find out more, before we slaughtered the poor nuc. There was a lot of sighing. Mr. W. set to work cleaning the hive off and contemplating paint colors. I headed for the chicken house to do my worst. I love demo work. Isn't this just gross?This is the dividing wall with the nest boxes on it. There was a sloped cover over the nest boxes to keep hens from roosting up there. Once the cover came off I discovered 5 years worth of dust and smut. Chickens' feathers make dust, the shavings make dust, there is dust in the air, the grain makes dust. I pulled the roosts out of the way after unscrewing them (see, this whole thing was put together with the intention of easy disassembly)and started on the wall. When we put this wall up it was done entirely with wood screws and was supposed to be mostly modular so that we could rip it down without difficulty. Except the base plate. See, 5 years plus cheap screws plus chicken poop = rust. Rust = stripped screws. Every. single. one. So while the studs came away nicely, and I got the top of the wall detached, the base wasn't going anywhere. What I had was a floppy disaster of an 8' wide x 8' tall wall. So really, there was no way to get it out as intended in one piece. Gene came down and offered the use of his reciprocal saw, but I was still determined in my mind that this could come out, in one piece, with no more than a driver (around here it's called "The Zippy Driver", the cordless drill/driver is, and right next to duct tape and the compound miter saw it's my favorite tool) and maybe snips for the chicken wire at the top if it needed it. No 100 foot extension cord, no big tools. Pigheaded? Nawp. Not me.
I had just finished removing the wall (Should I tell you how it ended? Ok. Not too badly. The wall came out in two pieces, the base plate got a little extra attention from a wrecking bar and the whole thing was conducted without any more electricity than that contained in the battery pack of the driver, which was my intention.) and was sitting on the floor of the filthy chicken house contemplating 'furniture' placement when Mr. W. approached with my cell phone. "You're gonna say this is karma, or meant to be, or whatever it is you say, but listen to this message." and handed me the phone. It was Jacinda (no blog, doesn't even knit, but we let it go because she's been around for 20+ years) letting us know that there was a bee class, today, on how to install package bees into a new hive. She and Greg were going, and did we want to come along? I looked at my watch. I called her, and we made plans to meet there which gave me a super generous 20 minutes to shower, change, and find lunch. While I was on the phone with her, one desperate hen came back into the house. Lots and lots of noises were made about the condition of the space, the changes I'd made which were obviously not to her liking, the odd (and temporary) location of the nest boxes. So distressed was she that she initially tried to lay her egg IN MY LAP.I convinced her that this was not a good plan. Gene helped me get the nest box into a more appropriate location and she tottered in and skeptically settled down to business.
We made it to the bee yard in perfect time.(Interesting to note, for upcycling/recycling/reclaiming fans: the wood used to build that wall I removed has been around for 20 years, or more. Some was reclaimed from a project Gene and I did a million years ago on my trailer in NH. Some was reclaimed from cabinets we pulled out of our old house in Northfield. All of it had screws removed, and it's been returned to the reuse pile in our garage meaning it will likely see use in the future as roosts for birds, more animal housing, who knows. But we pulled the red 2x3 studs out of NH when Meg was barely out of diapers, and the icky brown stained ones were put into our last house by the parents of kids I went to elementary school with, and I think that's pretty cool, frankly.)
Back to the bees...our bees - or I should say Girl's bees - are coming from Warm Colors Apiary which is pretty local to us, about twenty minutes or so. Warm Colors also has a great educational program for people new to bees and beekeeping. Sunday was a "package bees" pickup day. This means that boxes of bees were brought up here from Georgia by Dan Conlan for sale to local beekeepers, or potential beekeepers. This is the same method used to ship bees via the USPS. Bees come in a package which contains about 3 pounds of bees, a queen in a special cage, and enough sugar water to sustain them on their journey.These are bee packages in the shade awaiting pick-up. There were lots of bees.
Sunday's class was to show people how to get their hive started; how to introdce their package bees into a new hive.These are two hives in the Warm Colors bee yard. I love that they paint them up. I've been reading and apparently it's helpful if you've got more than one colony in a yard if the hive colors are varied. The bees can more easily recognize their own home and have less tendency to "drift", or end up in the wrong hive. Each colored section is called a super. They come in different sizes; deep, medium and shallow. Simply put, the lower supers are where the bees make more bees, keep house, and store a bit of grub and is also where the queen resides. Honey supers are added above, and a screen is used to keep the queen out of the honey supers. The honey supers are what the beekeeper gets.
Even junior beekeepers need to don their protective gear!Tiny bee suits. Why knew?!Dan dumping the bees into the lower hive body, a deep super. I love that they really are just dumped in. At first they are a big pile, but very quickly they spread out and cover the surface of the hive.At this point there's a lot of bees in the air. Some even stop off and visit.3 pounds is a lot of bees, by the way...After a remarkably short time, the bees settle down and figure out where they are supposed to be. Some sit on the hive top and fan the air vigorously with their wings, sending out a pheromone signal to their sisters that their queen is HERE, not over there.We had an awesome time at the bee yard. We signed up for the rest of the classes, got some supplies we needed and in general feel very prepared to be Bee Grandparents. In fact, I kind of want to be a Bee Mommy now.
Eventually Mr. W. reminded me that we needed to start supper and finish what we'd started earlier in the day. I came home to discover that some adaptation, albeit reluctant adaptation, had taken place. They are comfortable enough to lay me a couple of eggs, anyway.This is the new improved house, much more open, although the only one who'll really believe that is Girl. The shed is 10x12, and the area the birds have is about 8x12'. 2' is reserved for storage of their feed, and to keep them from leaving the building every time I enter. They've got six nest boxes, although I am going to add 3 more on top of the ones they've got. Their feeder is still hanging in it's proper place, and the waterer hasn't moved. Really, they have nothing to protest, but at bedtime they did anyway.
Chickens are not fans of change. But then...LOOK!! SPRING is really HERE! Gene pulled the straw off and found ASPARAGUS! I adore asparagus. I cannot wait for a few spears - but only a very few. This is the first full year they've been in, so we can't take a lot. But I can be patient. There's time yet!