Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What a difference a warm spring day makes!

On Sunday morning, 99% of my yard was still covered in snow, some more than a foot deep. Then Sunday, Monday, and today all topped 50 degrees F, and this is what I found outside this afternoon:
The first leaves of spinach are uncurling from last year's "dead" plants (remember, this was under snow just two days ago!)
The walking onions are sending up new green leaves, too (sorry about the wire in the foreground; I have a chicken tractor parked over this garden bed).
These are rhubarb stalks pushing up from the ground (this bed has actually been snow-free for about a week now; it's on a south-facing slope.)
And although these aren't edible, they are the first blooming thing after a very long and very cold winter, and they make me happy (these are in a bed next to the house, so they've been snow-free for about a week, too).

A quick google search, just to make sure, informed me that I was wrong: some crocus ARE edible - in fact, the ridiculously expensive spice saffron is harvested from a particular kind of fall-blooming crocus! You learn something new every day!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Honeybee Heartbreak

I went out to clean out the beehives this afternoon (now that the snow is only ankle deep rather than thigh deep!) and, as expected after this long, cold winter, found them all dead. I opened up the top bar hive first, and found the combs mostly empty - maybe three or four bees head-first in the comb, but it was bone-dry and quite brittle. When I lifted out the 5 or so frames with comb on them, I found a drift of dead bees on the floor of the hive. It was heartbreaking, but I was determined to make the best of it, so I saved the wax and scooped the dead bees into a bucket to feed to the chickens.

Then I went to the Warre hive. This had been by far the stronger hive, so I had hoped that, if one of the hives could pull through the winter, it would be this one. The frames were stuck fast with propolis, so I had to use my hive tool to pry them loose. When I pulled the first frame loose, I could have cried. Most of the combs had dead bees in them, head-first, as if they died desperately trying to scavenge the last droplet of honey. But it got worse. By the second or third frame I noticed that both the wax and the frames had mold on them. I soon realized that I wouldn't be able to use any of the wax, and that it wouldn't be wise to feed the dead bees to the chickens. Not only that, but the entire hive - a $350 investment - was likely ruined and no longer usable.

So now I'm stuck with the dilemma - do I cancel my order of bees for this spring, try to build my own hive (I found instructions online, which look do-able), or bite the bullet and buy all new? Or is there some way to salvage my old hive? Buying new isn't really an option - we were hoping to get new windows for the house this year (some weird spots appeared in ALL of them, between the panes, last summer), so we don't really have extra money. Building my own isn't exactly going to be cheap, either (and, knowing my carpentry skills, not as good quality). So I'm left with either salvaging what I have (if I lay everything out in the sunlight, will that be enough to sanitize it, or will the mold spores always be there, waiting for the humid breath of thousands of tiny bodies to revive it?) or - I hate to even think of it - should I just give up on beekeeping?