Spring Projects 2016

by Jorge

Putting up some photos of the refurbished Woodman has inspired me to share a few photos of other items on the list for completion before splitting season hits in April.

In the equipment realm, the Lynnville crew is working on putting a new deck on the overdeck trailer that I'll be pulling this summer. Some of the boards are on it now, but I'll try to get a pic when it's all done.

I'm also finally diving into the small garage that I'm transforming into a workshop. I knew the window spaces were totally rotten, but it turned out that there was quite a bit more work needed to shore up the framing than I anticipated. Kicking the siding in a couple of places made the whole wall shake because several studs were no longer attached to the mudsill. Some areas on the concrete floor didn't really have wood in any form--it had totally decomposed into rich-looking dirt. Here are a few peeks from the stripped down save-the-building phase. The end is in sight now, so it should only be a couple of weeks before I can put up images documenting the contrast.

Hopefully finishing these projects will help me keep this guy's honey bear full!

Early Spring 2016

by Jorge

The mild winter is swiftly turning very springlike. High temperatures for the next ten days range from the upper fifties to seventy, and tree pollen started coming today. I'm nervous for orchard growers who will almost certainly face an early bloom and threat of a frost during the pollination period, but hopefully all goes well on that front.

In the meantime, I will focus on the consequences of early spring in the bee yards. Brood production will start to ramp up immediately at the present temperatures with pollen available. This will turnover the overwintered population more quickly, stimulate varroa increase, and consume honey/syrup stores at swifter rates. Since pollen collection precedes nectar availability in our region, there is always a threat that the hive will outstrip its carbohydrate supply when serious brood rearing commences.

Overall, however, I'm very happy about the warm temperatures and the opportunity for the bees to get an early jump on 2016 foraging.

Here is a video celebrating the moment!

2016 and the Refurbished Woodman

by Jorge

Another year of beekeeping is upon us! I've been idle on the blogging front for several months, but as usual, that means things have actually been very busy in the past few months.

The overall 2015 honey crop was pretty mediocre again--nominally better than 2014. Still, we got a crop and continue to service a growing list of grocery stores and bulk customers.

Happily, the bees look very good as we conclude a mild 2015-16 winter. The winter loss in my bees is 6% at the moment. There have not been a lot of years when we've had back-to-back single digit percentage losses. The weather looks very favorable for the next ten days, so things would have to get very ugly in March and early April to reverse the positive signs in hive strength.

In the meanwhile, I've been working on 4-way pallets for the 2016 hive expansion, and we've completed a pretty awesome refurbish job on an old Woodman/Dadant 50 frame extractor. It has an old Woodman reel, a stainless steel barrel that was pretty awful before a thorough wet sanding, and a Dadant speed control that is not in the picture. I'm looking forward to running it this summer! It's amazing what a lot of elbow grease, sandblasting, and a fresh powder coat can achieve! My dad is the mysterious man in the coveralls in the second picture. Several people put in some time to get this machine in good shape again. Despite all of that time, our expense was about 1/10th of the cost of a new extractor of similar size.

Fourth of July Honey Flow Update

by Jorge

My concern about the cooler and wetter weather cycle came true. We have been lucky if the temperature has broken into the eighties, and several inches of rain fell over the past few weeks. It hasn't been disastrously rainy and cool, but things slowed up quite a bit in several locations. The moisture and mild temperatures have prolonged the clover bloom however, so there is still strong potential to get more good out of those flowers. Trefoil still looks promising too. Soybeans will start blooming in the next 1-2 weeks depending on when they were planted.

Thankfully, I do have a few locations that managed to gather significant honey during breaks in the rain. Here is a happy picture with Matt adding more supers at the location that we featured in the previous post. There are several hives at this spot with 2-4 boxes that are nicely filled. Most of them have one box of space. That will last them about a week at the current pace.

There are two locations on my circuit that really aren't doing anything. All of the other places have respectable action in at least some of the hives. I notice that this year's splits are really taking off. A good number of them are working 2-3 boxes but need more time to actually get them filled. Hopefully the next 2-4 weeks provide a decent crop that will provide relief and satisfaction for another year!

Lastly, in a wildlife point of interest, yesterday I spotted a doe with triplets while driving into a location near Swisher. That is a hard-working momma deer! This picture was the best my phone camera could manage (even with some editing):

The Eternal Honey Flow Question

by Jorge

Well, things have been looking pretty good in terms of honey prospects. The spring has been moist but not too wet, and the temperatures have been moderately warm. Those conditions have helped the clovers, especially the Dutch clover, develop into one of the best blooms in several years. Here is one of my bees working the clover a few days ago:

The good news is that there are a fair number of honey boxes that are full or partially full. That is especially the case in some of the parent colonies that overwintered. Most of the splits are just getting going. The great question is whether or not yesterday's six inches of rain will be a brief delay in the honey march, or if the weather shifts to a cooler and wetter pattern that is not helpful for getting a decent crop. As always, we will have to wait and see. In the meanwhile, I'll share a supering picture from one of the recent days that have been more encouraging. My assistant Matt is the one in the picture by the truck.

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