Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tomato Harvest

In the last few weeks I've been busy picking tomatoes, attending farm festivals, and working on ferments for a blog Sarah and I have started working on called Culture-Shock. It's been a very busy time.


Here is just a small quantity of the tomatoes we've pulled out of the garden. These are mostly Amana Orange which is a lovely bright orange, sweet, low acid tomato. We have made paste, soup, and pureed some up into fermented hot sauce. As well as given many away for friends and family. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Spoons for Sale






I've listed five new spoons and spreaders in the TWD Store section of the blog, made from some nice maple, beech and cherry. I'm currently working on some large ladles carved from cherry crooks.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Natural Sized Comb

 After reading Michael Bush's The Practical Beekeeper, and thinking about what working methods made sense to me, I really got into the idea of using foundationless frames, 8 frame medium supers for all hive parts, and committing to not treating. This was all pipe dream for the day I might run an apiary or keep more than two top bar hives. Maybe I'd work out deals and manage hives at an orchard or community garden.

Well all that is starting to come to a head, Sarah and I have worked out an agreement to locate hives at one, maybe two community gardens in the area. I'm keeping the details close for now, because I haven't explicitly asked if they are okay with it.

Now, what in the hell does this have to do with size of honeycomb cells? Sarah and I have slightly different opinions on a few things, she learned with foundation and is used to that. I'm a bit of a nut and don't (yet?) fully understand how poorly (or amazing!) the bees may choose to build in foundationless frames. By adding drawn frames from a nuc, I think they will be off to a great start, and I think the girls will be happier drawing their own wax. Plus I can ensure clean wax, and use it for cosmetic uses without the fear of chemical contaminants. I settles on sharing hives with foundation, if we could get small cell foundation. Mostly I want cute tiny bees, but there is also an ancillary benefit of smaller mite counts.

This led me to wonder, if the foundation we are installing has 4.9mm cells, how big are the cells on my self-drawn comb in the top bar hive? While they are larger bees from a package, they will build slightly smaller, as I understand it left to their own devices. Over time this will lead to fully regressed (in size) bees, provided the comb is removed so the slightly smaller bees can build even slightly smaller comb. 


Balancing act. I've got one end of the bar precariously balanced on the hive to free a hand to hold the ruler up to some cells. Out of the top bar hive I had 10 cells equaling 2 inches, .2 inches per cell converted to millimeters equals 5.08mm cells. Not bad, well within the 4.9-5.2 range that Bush quotes from beekeepers in the 19th century. But a bit away from the 4.9mm small cell foundation we'll start our other bees on.


 This is a piece of comb cut out of the attic of the hive that is housing the swarm we saved a few weeks ago. They are building at 5.3mm per cell.


 And here is a huge chunk of pollen comb from the same, I couldn't find a good average of ten similarly sized cells in a straight enough line to measure but here it is.



And here is a piece showing a bunch of uncapped and capped drone brood. Sorry little buggers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Checking on Brood and Swarm Removal


I like opening the little Top Bar Nuc (TBN) first, they were angrier the first two times I checked on them and it's easier for me to do the angry ones first (even though they are fine now). 


Second-to-most-recent bar of comb the girls have built. You can see a bunch of pollen and some nectar in the top 1/5th of the comb. The rest is filled mostly with unhatched eggs and recently hatched larvae.


This is a frame of almost completely worker brood, there is an odd cell of nectar in there, but I think the bees with use that up and the queen will go back and lay in empty frames when they emerge. Or maybe they will fill in the whole shebang with stores when the bees emerge.



This comb has a large quantity of capped drone brood and quite a bit of nectar. I haven't seen any capped honey yet, but I think they aren't far off.   


I think this is the same bar, but shows with a little more detail the emerged cells, capped drone cells, and open nectar.


Last one is an action shot of Sarah and I catching a swarm out in West Philly. Boy was that exciting. The very next thing I build is going to be a bee vacuum, which would have made this an hour long catch-drive-hive operation instead of the all evening, shake-sting-curse-drive-sting-curse-tarp-pray cluster (pun intended) it turned out to bee.

 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Top Bar Hive, Top Bar Nuc and Installing a Few Thousand Bees


This is what a new beekeeper picking up two packages of bees looks like, those two crates are the packages, 3 lbs or workers, a queen and some sugar in a box. What a party.


Here are the one and a half hives I've built, the one in the background is a four foot top bar hive, in the foreground a top bar nuc. It saved me from having to build a whole second top bar hive in the short period I had before the bees arrived. I've got to get the second done soon, or make another nuc for a split. 


Two starter bars to get them building comb straight, hopefully.


Spray bottle with very light honey syrup, and my first package. What an exciting thing, installing the bees.


Pulling out the staples for the lid and queen cage. This is so the can of syrup can be removed, then the queen cage. Then it's time to...



Shake and dump 3 pounds of bees into their new home and hang the queen from one of the bars.


After reading Michael Bush's The Practical Beekeeper I'd pretty much decided I didn't want to feed them sugar syrup of any kind, dry sugar if I had to. This is organic honey I've been collecting from residue inside buckets that get thrown away. The girls loved it. They are doing well, the queens are out and laying, and all the workers are busy building and collecting. Next post will have some shots of the bees and comb.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nuc Box, Beehives and Life

If you read blogs long enough, you invariable encounter ones where, after so often, it seems like the author must have been conscripted, dead or reading A Song of Ice and Fire, then crying in the corner whilst waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish writing the last two books.

As it happens only one of those things was happening to me and now, through a variety of forces I'm making things and losing some of the acquired apathy I've been feeling for the last couple of months. It's a good feeling.

First thing on the agenda, tomatoes, because what's the 7th week before last frost without tomato planting? Depressing, that's what.

Labeling cups and arranging them by cultivar, we're starting 13 different types, I'm most excited for the Azoychka, Amana Orange and Amish paste. 

We planted about 400 different types, this group is the Amana Orange, and they about a 92% germination rate! We intend to sell about half of the seedlings around 7 weeks, so people can get local heirloom plants instead of whatever Burbee sells to the hardware stores and BORG.

Next stop pollination. Which means either Q-Tip swabbing or bees. I'm lazy and I like honey so guess what I'm doing... 

One of my friends, an avid beekeeper, climber and general badass named Sarah, was asking about a couple of different pieces of woodenware related to catching swarms, and rearing queens. One of the pieces we spoke about was a nucleus hive, which is a small hive or box that can hold about half the frames of a standard Langstroth hive. I built one, like this.


Then Sarah started talking more about bees, and I started getting excited hence this whole sort of revival going on. I got to work scoping out my roof, and building on campus (because they have roofs too) and I started designing my top-bar hive, and continuing the build for the Warre hive I started a while ago.


TBH, I still have a lot of CAD to finish, I'm going to add some sort of quilt/insulating layer like the Warre hive in an effort to maintain temperature when it gets opened up. Which is Warre's nadiring idea to keep heat in the brood nest.  


The Warre hive box. I have a minimum of two more of these, bottom board and quilt/roof to finish. Then maybe build a whole 'nother set.

So, see? Still woodworking, hardly fine furniture though (I think I'm screwing together the next set of boxes, the finger joints are nice, but they use a lot of wood and take a lot of time.) But now I don't feel bad about writing about not-furniture, and it feels great.






Monday, March 24, 2014

The introduction from my old blog, reposted.

The following is what I posted about 7 months ago on a new blog I was starting during a tumultuous period of my life. A lot has changed and in the last few weeks I've been getting my drive back. I've set some ambitious farm/agricultural goals for this season, and built some cool things that are hardly fine furniture. It's coming back together. 

"Hi, my name is Trevor, I'm 26 and I live in Philadelphia.

I'm having a crisis.

You see I've got two major loves that pitch me down a rabbit hole nearly daily. I love to learn, by doing, reading or hearing what others have to say. I'm also deeply motivated by doing what's right for the planet in a long term legitimately sustainable set or practices.

The need to balance these motivations makes me want to quit my job and move into the woods nearly weekly; but that brings a whole slew of problems stemming from my debts (University, what a brilliant idea, "Here, spend $120,000 and 4 years doing what we say to figure out what you want your life to be about) (I'm out of debt as of 2/6/2014!). Ultimately I look at one or two workshops, maybe $1000 in leisure reading (that you could borrow), a visit to Dickinson's campus, hiking in the Wissahickon park, and working at Weavers Way co-op for my working member shifts as the most influential experiences in my "green" education. Added together they account for about 3% of the time, money and effort I spent (along with my parents, and the government) getting a "practical education". I made awesome, lifelong friends, and yes I had the opportunity to discover these things partly through college, but that doesn't mean I couldn't find them without.

I find it funny, here I am 3 years into a career after college, yes I use my skills gained and interests in my work but when I go home at night I find myself browsing biodiesel, waste vegetable oil heaters and cook-stoves, renewable energy, self sufficiency, eco-minimalism, beehives, farmland to buy, Sketch-Uping tiny house plans, etc. The poignant take away is that these are all words you'd find archived on my internet history from high school. Maybe if I started reading soon enough I would have been fortunate enough to become that amazing college drop out, who's well adjusted, completely focused in life and totally at peace."

Yes I've quoted myself, I know it's uncouth. It's fine.