Effie says, "It's Hot!"

Pig in the Tub

Effie the pigEffie now shares the very large pen with our goats.  The goats DO NOT appreciate Effie the Pig cooling off in their waterer, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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So How Do You Move A Beehive?

With great care!

Of all the moving we have done since March relocating the herb farm, family, and animals- the thing that concerned me the most was moving the bees.  For obvious reasons of safety to us humans but also for the safety of the bees.  We have had our hives for 3 years and they have been so healthy and vigorous.  The idea of disrupting their lives or causing them serious damage weighed on my mind.

Savannah, my 18 yr old, started us on this course of bee keeping when she received a scholarship from the East Texas Bee Keepers Association.  Included in the scholarship was an in depth class on bee keeping, a new hive, and bees.  We did have to buy her bee suit and a few tools and then I purchased a hive and bees as well.  A funny thing about the two hives, Savannah’s hive is made up of very calm bees who just chill and go on their way and my hive is rather aggressive and do not appreciate any interference in their business.  These hives completely mirror the personalities of their owners.  Savannah is just like my husband in temperament and we get along really well.

Not only was physically moving the bees a challenge, the distance we were going was a concern.  Bees are very habitual beings and if you move their hive a short distance they will be so confused that they will die.  So, if you are going to move a hive it must be several miles away from the current location.  Well, our new farm is about 5 miles away by car on the roads but as the crow flies (or bee in this case) we were not sure it was really all that far.  One good thing is that the Canton City lake is in between us and it is quite large.  Hopefully this great expanse of water will keep the bees from being so confused that they go back home only to find the hives gone.

The night before we moved the bees, Savannah went over with her dad and stuffed towels in the entrance so that the bees could not leave at the crack of dawn.  The idea is that any bees left outside the hive will die and leave you alone when you go to move the hive.  It seems harsh, but there are only a few bees that did not go up at night.  However, they also did not die.  They were alive and well buzzing around the hive working to chew their way through the towel.

Bees At Hollyberry Herb Farm

Since Savannah had been up late helping her dad with other stuff the night before, I had gotten up just as the sun was rising to help Tony.  All zipped up in her suit, I checked the towels to make certain they were in good and tight- the last thing we wanted was for the towel to slip out while we were moving them and have to deal with thousands of angry bees.

We then slid the dolly up under the first hive and ever so gently wheeled it to the trailer and up the ramps.  Then we repeated the action with the second hive.  I was concerned about the loose bees giving us trouble, but the were so focused on getting into their hive that they didn’t really care what we were doing.  Once the hives were on the trailer, they were strapped down tight and we slowly made our way through town with me sitting up in the front still suited up looking like something from a sci-fi movie.

Bees on the trailerThe extra bees either couldn’t keep up or got up under the hive and made the trip with us.  There were plenty on the bottom of the hives when we got to the farm.  Now, we repeated the dolly process in reverse.

Using the dolly to move bees

Bees in their new homes

Removing the plugs from the entrance

 

The only challenge left in this parade was to remove the towels plugging up the entrances.  I must say I was a bit aprehensive about this part.  After all, I was about to release thousands of bees ready to die to protect the hive.  My fear was unfounded, I slipped the towels out and moved briskly but calmly away.  In all of this, not one bee sting was had between the two of us!  Now the bees are sitting pretty on a heavy duty pallet feeding on all the bloom herbs.

The underside of a bee hiveWhile Tony had the hive tilted back on the dolly, I snapped a picture of the bees on bottom.  I wish you could see the activity on the other side of the screen and hear the low drone of the bees- it is a beautiful sound.

Blooming Lemon BalmLemon Balm, or Melissa which is Greek for Bee, blooming for the bees.  There is plenty blooming in the gardens for the bees to feed on.  All of the herbs are blooming late due to our unusually cold spring.

What are you planting to feed the bees?  You are planting something for the bees, aren’t you?  After all, the bee is responsible for 2 of every 3 bites of food you eat!  We need the bees.

 

 

 

 

Grasshoppers & NOLO Bait

A nasty little beast eating the Kale

A nasty little beast eating the Kale

I once read in a gardening book that grasshoppers are usually present but don’t do much in the way of damage.  I thought, “You have got to be kidding!  There is a place on earth where grasshoppers don’t do damage?!”  If there is a place- it is certainly not in Texas.  Here, grasshoppers give a very living example of the plague that Moses sent on the Egyptians.  The grasshopper will eat any vegetation in site and leave nothing but skeletal stalks behind.  And once the grasshopper has matured, poisons will not kill them.

So what to do?  I have found NOLO Bait to be very effective.  NOLO Bait is bran flakes coated in Nosema locustae- a microbial agent that infects only grasshoppers and either kills them or makes them too sick to eat.  This is awesome! Then, the healthy grasshoppers move in and eat the sick ones (grasshoppers are cannibalistic) and then they get sick further spreading the disease.  All the while, no other good bug or bee or humming bird is bothered by this illness.

So how is this accomplished, exactly?

From the website: http://www.goodbug.com/nolobait.html#HowWork

How exactly does Nolo Bait™ work?

Once the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae spores are ingested by the grasshopper they become activated in the grasshopper’s mid-gut. The spores germinate or extrude a filament from the cell wall. In the process of extruding this filament, the spores pierce the mid-gut wall of the grasshopper and in very young grasshoppers death usually occurs very quickly. This is due to septicemia or bacteria invading the grasshopper and causing death. In more mature grasshoppers the spores continue to reproduce, utilizing the fat body of the grasshopper for energy. As the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae population increases inside the grasshopper it becomes lethargic, reduces its feeding and has lowered reproduction capability. In addition, grasshoppers are quite cannibalistic and healthy grasshoppers will feed on their slow, sickly companions. This enables the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae to spread throughout the population and infect other grasshoppers that migrate into the area. Infected female grasshoppers can also pass the infection along in the sticky substance that surrounds the egg pods. As the newly hatching grasshoppers chew their way out of the egg pod they also become infected and will mostly likely die before reaching the first molt.

The grasshoppers love the bran- it’s like crack cocaine for them.  Once you spread the bait out on your plants you will see them feeding heavily.  You will also see a lot of damage in that area to the plants at first.  The picture above is the first area I spread the bait this year and the grasshoppers have fed there the most.  I am now starting to see some damage and more grasshoppers but this bed is just about done, here in Texas is is now hot and the kale is turning bitter so I am leaving it for the grasshoppers to feed on knowing that the sick ones are there and any new comers will eat the sick ones and then spread the disease.  When you garden organically you have to get used to the idea that it is a process, one that takes time to turn the tide.  This is the first year for us at this new place so I may have some problems with grasshoppers, but by being patient I can kill them at the root of the problem while not harming our bees, birds, or other good bugs.

It is best to spread NOLO Bait at the first sign of grasshoppers- when the are about 1/2 inch to an inch long.  At this stage the grasshoppers will be killed by the infection.  However, if you feed it when they are larger you will still infect the population with the disease that will continue to spread for several years.  As you can see, if you start using this bait and your neighbors start using this bait and you put it out 2-3 times per season, you can really do some damage to the populations of grasshoppers in your area- for the long term.  Spraying poisons just kills what grasshoppers are there (if it kills them at all) but does nothing to stop the cycle of the grasshopper.  The use of broad spectrum poisons is a bad process and not an effective management tool.

Kale and grasshoppersThis bed of Kale looks like an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet to the new arrivals, but it is like a loaded gun.  “Come and eat my pretties” it says, but all the while death awaits.  I may seem a bit dark in the way I enjoy death and destruction of the grasshoppers- but once you have watched your gardens be invaded and every leaf stripped bare you realize its you or them.  Nature is a tough place to live.

Add NOLO bait to your arsenal this year, you will be glad you did in the long run. NOLO Bait can be ordered on line or purchased at a feed store or garden center that carries organic gardening supplies.

What is your biggest problem in your gardens?

The Best Things In Life Are Free

jonathan picking berries

Oh, summertime.  One of the first signs that summer has arrived, other than every item of clothing on your person being soaked with sweat- and I mean all your clothing- is the arrival of dewberries.  These are a variety of blackberries- not as big and not quite as sweet as the cultivated varieties but they are available for the picking.  Seriously, free and organic fruit- what could be better.

Around the corner from us on an abandoned fence, there is a whole mess of berries.  Lots and Lots.  Jonathan and Sierra and whoever else will walk down the road with them have picked berries everyday for a week now.  The vines are so loaded that I think we will have another week of harvest.  There are so many things to do with berries- cobbler, ice cream, flavored cream for the top of a pound cake, pound cake, crumb cake, and the list goes on.

As Jonathan and I picked berries together in the warm sunshine, he prattled on about the possibility of what we might do with the berries. Once back at the house, of course, the first thing to do is to get a bowl full and sprinkle them with sugar and eat them with your fingers- that way you can lick your fingers clean. But in the meantime, you eat the most plump and ripe berries right on the spot.  No, you don’t need to wash them they are fine.  You might eat a bug, but it won’t kill you.  Eating them off the vine is a big part of the fun.  The best part of the berry pickin’ is the memories you make.  The conversation is seemingly meaningless as we chatter, but in that chatter you build connections with your kids.  These are the tidbits that come together as the whole picture that tells the kids who they are and where they come from.  Not to mention the warmth in your heart you feel when your twelve year old son reaches over and takes your hand as you walk down the road.  I love that kid and I love to pick berries with him.  The best things in life are free.

My favorite use of berries is a cobbler and here is the most simplest of deserts best eaten warm with vanilla ice cream!

 

Dewberry Cobbler (or whatever berry you have on hand)

One recipe of pie crust

2-3 cups of berries

1 cups sugar

Take one half of the pie dough recipe and roll it out.

Put half of the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9X9 pan-  I like cast iron pans.  Place berries in the pan and pour sugar on the berries.  Cover with the other half of the rolled dough.  The dough does not have to cover the berries or the bottom completely.  Place in an oven heated to 350′ oven and bake for 30-45 minutes- just until the dough is brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  Put a generous helping in a bowl and top with ice cream.  Let the good times roll!