Bee Update for 2020

I hope this post finds all my readers healthy and safe, and welcome to all of my new blog followers.  I haven’t posted since July, and friends have been asking me for an update on the bees.  This post will update you on our bees, the garden, and our big conservation project, but first I want to spend one paragraph letting you know why it has been so long since I posted.

Several months ago I made a conscious decision to get off of social media.  The constant bickering about everything from politics to protests to mask wearing was taking an enormous toll on my mental health.  I found that eliminating social media improved my mental well-being significantly.  I miss seeing cute pictures of my friends’ pets and kids, but the negatives of social media had come to outweigh the positives.  Another reason for my hiatus is the cancel culture that threatens anyone that tries to create, write or build anything.  Think cancel culture only impacts famous people?  Think again.  One of my favorite local businesses fell victim to a social media mob.  The business owners’ “offense” was that they followed the state mandated health and hygiene regulations for operating a hair salon during the pandemic.  A new customer didn’t like the implementation of the guidelines, so she decided to use social media and the local news in an attempt to destroy the business.  Earlier in the year I wrote what was meant to be a funny post about how Dolly Parton was my spirit animal.  I have since learned that the use of the term “spirit animal” is offensive to indigenous people.  I don’t want to offend anyone.  I considered removing the post but finally decided to leave it up hoping that people would understand that the post was meant to be a tribute to Dolly.  I really try to be sensitive, but I still make mistakes.  Here is one last example of how the smallest comment now gets scrutinized.  I follow quite a few YouTube content creators.  These creators are regular people who take the time to create content about topics I enjoy.  For these folks, their YouTube channel is their side hustle that helps them feed their families.  I always try to let the ads play, like the videos, and drop a positive comment because all of these things help those folks with YouTube monetization.  One of the channels I watch is about frugal living, and viewers were asked to write a comment about something that they used to spend money on that they don’t anymore.  I commented that I don’t spend money anymore on expensive hand soaps or body wash because bar soap is cheaper and has less packaging waste.  Someone took offense to that and took the time to write a lengthy two paragraph response telling me that bar soap is an abomination that should be outlawed.  She actually said bar soap should be illegal!  Who walks around with that much anger and such strong feelings about soap?  I made the decision in July that the best thing for me to do was just to be silent.  2020 is the year to keep a low profile.  I am breaking the silence, though, because people keep asking about our bees.

We have six hives going into winter.  Those six hives are spread over three locations.  All the hives seemed strong when we last checked them.  We treated all six hives for varroa mites.  Some hives received formic acid treatment, and some received treatment with Apivar strips.  Our fall was dry, but we had enough blooming golden rod and wild asters for a good fall honey flow.  This fall flow seemed sufficient to bulk up our bees and give them adequate honey stores going into winter.  We placed a box full of pine shavings inside of each hive.  The shavings will absorb condensation.  Moisture inside the hives is a threat to bees clustered in the winter.  We also placed a winter feeding patty inside each hive to make sure the bees had food to supplement their honey stores.  Our bees don’t always need the patties, but we figure it is cheap insurance.

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Golden rod

This year was our first honey harvest.  We didn’t sell honey this year, but we hope to next year.  I am using most of our honey for baking.  Pumpkin bread made with home grown pumpkins and honey is on our breakfast table most mornings.  My last blog post was about my fear of not having any pumpkins to harvest from the garden.  (You can find that post here.)  My fears were unfounded because I had a bumper crop of pumpkins.  I harvested 50-60 sugar pie pumpkins!  I have made pumpkin butter, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pasta sauce, veggie burgers with pumpkin, pumpkin soup.  I’m making pumpkin pie next week.

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I has so happy when I picked my first three pumpkins.  I didn’t realize there was going to be 50 or 60 more behind these.

In November, I made my first attempt at melting beeswax and formulating it into skin cream.  My blog posts that get the most consistent attention month after month are the posts about using beeswax to treat eczema.  The cream I made uses a formulation of wax, sunflower oil, olive oil, and coconut oil.  I use more beeswax than the commercial formulations, so the cream I make is much thicker and slower to absorb, which is exactly what you want if you need a protective layer on your eczema inflamed skin.  My homemade formulation is working better to manage my eczema than the formulations I buy in the store.  If you suffer from eczema, you know how grateful you are when you find anything that can help you better manage the condition.  When I made the cream, I didn’t have any essential oils to add to the mixture.  Most people use things like lavender oil in skin creams.  Since we live in the age of covid, I wasn’t going to run to the store just to buy essential oils.  I looked around the house and decided to use the almond extract in my pantry.  The extract worked great, and now I smell like a sugar cookie when I use the cream.

Our pandemic vegetable garden did well overall.  Some things grew really well (kale, cucumbers, swiss chard, squash) and some didn’t grow well (beets, corn and lima beans).  I harvested vegetables May through November.  Next year I am hoping to extend the growing season through the use of cold hardy crops and row extenders in order to harvest April through December.  I learned to can this year too, and I have even more respect now for my mom and grandmother who used to do this all summer long when I was a kid.  My husband has dubbed 2020 as “the year of learning” as we try doing so many things differently now.  I canned tomatoes, pickles, relish, and green tomato chutney.  Next year I want to learn to pressure can so I am able to can beans.

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I had a bumper crop of turnips this year.

You may recall from a previous post that we have a 25 acre plot of land that we are converting into a conservation area.  We completed much of that work this year.  Wildflowers and native grasses were planted in the pasture.  We cleared bush honeysuckle from 15 acres of forest.  Clearing bush honey suckle is better than any gym workout.  Lots of cutting, sawing, dragging, and climbing of hills.  The pay-off is that we have this wonderful healthy forest that now provides an excellent habitat for dozens of plant and animal species.  We are hoping to place some bee hives near the wildflower pasture this spring.

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Partridge peas are one of the species we planted.  

I have no idea what 2021 will bring.  I heard a saying once that people make plans and God laughs.  We are making plans to sell honey in 2021 and try a few other projects, but who knows if that will happen.  We take each day as it comes.  For everyone reading this, I hope your 2021 is a year filled with health and peace.

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