Category Archives: bees

Splitting the Hive

Before leaving for my wee paperback book tour, I had a long list of crap to do. Things like: do laundry, pack, get alfalfa, put out water for the critters, and requeen my hive split. I’ve always been a bee-haver, not a bee-keeper, but this year my colony looked especially strong and so I decided to do something hands-on. I wanted to get another hive, but hadn’t heard about any swarms, so I decided to do what’s called a split. You take some of the brood, eggs, and honey from the main colony and put it into a new empty hive. Some people just allow the bees to make their own queen, but this will take 21 days. So I got a hold of a queen rearing operation up in Vacaville.

The guys said he’d pop an Italian queen in the mail for me. I was so surprised when she arrived in this simple envelop.

Inside, there she was, in a small box with her attendants. There’s a candy cap at the bottom of the box. I put the box into the queenless hive, which had been queenless for about three days. The idea is they would slowly eat the candy off the bottom of the box and release the queen. Before I took off for Boston, I peeked in and saw the queen was still in the box, even after three full days. So I suited up, got a pair of tweezers out, and went into the hive to get her out.

It was pretty anti-climatic: a few bees went into the opening of the little box, came out, rubbed their antennae, and seemed to be talking to each other. Then out the queen walked. She wandered around, checking out the place. None of the other bees seemed to notice her, so I’m worried. Shouldn’t they be psyched? She wasn’t as big as other queens I’ve seen, and she has a blue dot on her thorax. I hope she works out. Then I put the lid back on and went inside to pack.

Now I’m in Boston, here’s where I’ll be for the next few days:

Boston, June 7, 7pm at Porter Square Book

Philadelphia, June 8, Free Library, 7:30

Baltimore, June 9, Enoch Free Library (with Baltimore Green Works) 7pm

Salt Lake City, June 10, SLC Main Public Library 7pm

When I get back, I’ll see if the new queen is laying!

Exciting things happening

I am so high on almost spring!

Couple of things I wanted to get the word out about:

1. classes at the Biofuel Oasis urban farming store are going strong. i’m teaching a goat class may 9th, that isn’t quite full yet. if you’ve been thinking about raising goats, sign up for this class! there’s also classes about rainwater harveting, greywater, beekeeping, and chicken raising.

2. the sf garden show, usually an over-the-top horticulture event, is getting into food crops. this year it’s being held in san mateo (not cow palace) from March 24-28. Here are my picks for food gardening events: Pam Pierce, doyenne of the dirt, Wed March 24 at 3:30; Rosalind Creasy, edible landscaping godmother, appears March 25, 1pm; and a fellow urban farmer Bill Thoness is talking about heirloom vegetables, Friday March 26, 3:30. here’s a link for the full seminar schedule.

3. i’m ramping up garden production and have a new business model. though i’m still going to feed my hungry neighbors, i need to find a way to pay for seeds and alfalfa, rootstock and floating row cover. so i’ve hatched a plan to have a Pop Up Farm Stand!  here’s the general idea: every week, on say, a wednesday or thursday, i’ll post on-line what’s available to buy. this list will include fava beans, salad green mixes, milk (pet food only), rabbit meat, herbs, beets, seedlings, and grafted fruit trees. i might even dabble in selling some products like preserved lemons, dried tea blends, and cheese (aged and fresh). i’ll also have books and t-shirts for sale. on Friday i’ll open up the farm for a few hours for people to come by and get what they want, on a first come, first served basis. i’d love to hear what you think of the idea, and what you’d like me to grow or raise.

Farm Tour

Pant, pant. Lord, just saw the cover of my book, coming out in June. Purdy cute. But top secret.

So, how does October 19th work for you farm tour people? We’re going to do a honey extraction. High noon. Be here: 665 28th Street, at MLK and 28th. We’re the lot next door. We’ll do a tour then extract (weather willing). Bring seeds to swap if you’ve got a favorite. I’ve got some good Speckles lettuce…

Oh, and article in SFgate.com this week by moi.

Virtual farm tour

Sorry for those of you who missed the last farm tour. It was nice to meet some new folks and see old friends. I’ve got a gun to my head to finish a writing project, so there won’t be a tour in August. Plan on a Friday in early September.

In the meantime, here’s the farm report.

The bees I caught last year are doing really well. There seems to be lot of activity, though I was worried about the queen’s laying pattern last time I did an inspection (which was awhile ago–I hate bothering them). The swarm caught this spring in Alameda has died out. The queen never started laying and it all went to hell. I partially blame myself because I had this really jankity brood box with very funky frames.

The garden is in that awkward mid-summer phase where the greens are done but the tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet. Luckily there is something to eat because it’s summer apple season. One of our neighbors comes in and picks them, which pisses Bill off, but I’m resigned–and even a little supportive–of the lot pillagers. Times are tight in the ghetto and the more fresh food I grow, the healthier the people around here will be. In a nod to my hippiedom, I’m growing corn and sunflowers, crops I usually don’t pursue. However, I have a reason! I do like sweet corn. And, the goats will very gladly eat the corn stalks. So it’s a multi-use plant. Similarly, goats like sunflower leaves and seeds.

The chickens on the deck are getting big, and I’m almost ready to set them loose outside with the big girls. They’ll get their asses kicked, but after a day or so all will be well. They’ve been flying off the deck and into the street, which is no good, so I’m getting motivated. The big white fella is Edith’s soon to be boyfriend. By the way he’s been puffing up lately, I’m fairly sure he’s a male.

Finally, the deck rabbits are getting plump from eating the windblown apples. They’re approaching their 3 month old birthday, which means it’ll be time for rabbit rillettes soon.

Bees or Fruit?


This upcoming Saturday has me tortured. There’s the Rare Fruit Growers event about all the weird-ass fruit you can grow around here AND a Bee Symposium in Santa Rosa with the creme de la creme of the sustainable bee-keeping world: Randy Oliver, Eric Mussen, Serge Labesque, bee movies, “bee art”, and more.
Here’s their blurb: “In this time of global ecological challenges, the honeybee is an indicator species reflecting the enormous changes taking place in our world. Bee populations are dying and pollination ecology is deeply effected. As beekeepers, we must become stewards of the earth and change paradigms. This one-day symposium offers information and speakers with new perspectives on honeybees and native pollinators, beekeeping practices, innovative approches and ecological strategies for beekeepers.”
The fruiters are meeting at 1-4; but the bee symposium goes from 9-6! Like a smart couple, Bill said he would go to the fruit, and I’ll go to the bee thing. Divide and conquer, baby.
I’ll let you know everything I learn at both events, assuming Bill takes good notes and my car makes in to Santa Rosa.
If anyone wants to go to either, here’s the info:
Bee Symposium 2008
Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm
655 Willowside Road, Santa Rosa, CA
March 8; 9-6
$30 at door
by phone 707/824-2905
lunch for purchase on-site

OR

CRFG: Unusual Edibles in the Bay Area
El Sobrante Branch Library, 4191 Appian Way, El Sobrante, CA
March 8; 1-4pm
“Not only is the climate different in different Bay Area counties, but even within a given town there are microclimates. Our members will talk about what’s growing for them and what’s not. What usually works but hasn’t in this wacky climate change year…”

**photo of my beehive courtesy Julie Johnson and the JSchool**

The Bees Have Gone Away


There’s a tradition of telling a hive when someone in the family dies, so I guess I’m telling you: a hive has died.
I got too busy with work and the garden, I didn’t take the time out to open the hive regularly and check on the girls. My desk used to face the hive, which is on the deck of our apartment near downtown Oakland. I used to monitor their comings and goings, then go back to typing, monitor, type, monitor…These days I’ve been bogged down with school and didn’t watch them as well as I should. Finally I went out and inspected the hive–there was just a little ball of bees and no honey or brood. My guess is the queen died, and hence, the hive was doomed. That little cluster would eventually die. Lucky for me it’s swarm season, and I hope to catch another. I think I’m going to relocate the hive, too, to a warmer, less windy spot.
Another piece of good news: we have two other hives–one at a farm in Pescadero, another in the backyard of some friends in Berkeley.
The photo is the hive in better days, an akebia quintata growing nearby.