New beehives

We started keeping bees last year, with two hives. Those hives have survived the winter, and should be able to provide some honey this year. We don’t harvest honey the first year, as they need to build up the colony, and have reserves to take them through the cold months when they can’t forage.

Anyway, we have now added two more hives.

I built a second hive stand a few weeks ago, and installed it yesterday; see the photo of the day on my personal blog.

Then this morning we drove out to Ruhl Bee Supply in Wilsonville to pick up two nucs — nucleus hives that each contain four frames of small established colonies:

Once home, we took our new hive boxes etc out to our apiary (bee yard):

Jenn then started transferring the nuc frames into the boxes:

Inspecting each frame:

A full brood box: four nuc frames in the middle, two empty frames on either side for them to expand into:

Some bees left in the nuc box, which we tipped on top of the hive:

Putting the inner cover and top cover on:

Installing the second hive:

The little black squares on the corners are mite treatments, to protect the bees from a common parasite:

The hives closed up, with 2:1 sugar syrup feeders in front:

We briefly opened the older hives to add mite treatment to them, too:

Our expanded apiary:

A bit more snow

So much for spring; we got about an inch of snow overnight.

The feral cats are used to it by now:

The bees probably aren’t too thrilled, but have been pretty active recently, working on restoring their supplies, so will probably stay bundled up for now:

The chicken coop:

The white gazebo; the pond is still liquid: it hasn’t been cold enough to freeze:

The brown gazebo and coop:

Second beehive stand

A simple mini-project for the weekend was to build another stand for the two new beehives we’ll be setting up soon. We’ll be picking up two more nucs (nucleus hives) mid-April, so have bought more hives, and needed a stand for them to sit on. I used the same design as the first one.

Here’s the basic frame; the spacing is perfect both for the hive boxes, and to rest frames temporarily during inspections (e.g. see an empty frame towards the back of this picture):

Legs; the middle legs are shorter than the corner ones, as they will sit on taller footing blocks (for reasons; stay tuned for the installation for why):

Some hive bases demoing the fit. As with the first hive stand, there’s room in the middle for a third hive. We’ll likely add another one on each of the stands next year:

Jenn has been painting the new hive boxes fun colors:

Collecting eggs

One of my daily routines is to collect eggs from the two chicken coops.

Some of the chickens lay in the nice roll-out boxes I built in the new coop, where the eggs roll down a gentle slope for easy collection from outside the coop:

But most of them seem to prefer to lay in the boxes (or floor!) of the old coop. Here are some eggs under Martha, who has been feeling broody for a while:

And in another box:

I collect them in a plastic carrier that holds a dozen, though sometimes I have 13 or more:

I bring them inside, and put them into egg cartons. A tip: I put them small-end first, which makes them stay fresh longer, as the air bubble remains at the top:

Here’s a closer view of a carton, with a custom stamp for our Yellow Cottage Homestead, and a date stamp:

I don’t wash the eggs; the bloom on them also helps keep them fresh. When it’s time to use them, I simply wash them then (in warm water; cold would draw any bacteria into the egg). Here is a freshly-washed bowl of eggs, ready to be boiled:

Pond fountain & salamander eggs?

Yesterday I turned on the fountain in our pond, to get some water circulation.

Before I could do that, I had to wade into the pond, as the fountain had fallen over, probably due to the ice. So I recently bought some cheap waders:

I was interested to find a couple of gelatinous blobs attached to the sides of the plastic pot that the pump sits in (to protect the intake from the pond silt). Googling images, I think these are salamander eggs. We know that our pond has salamanders, which we take as a good sign of a healthy pond ecosystem.

Here’s the righted pump; the water is murky from me stirring up the silt, but you can see one of the blobs on the left:

A view of the pond with the fountain running. It’s not a big fountain, just enough to get some water movement and aeration:

Gas holder & feed store supplies

Before I could mow I needed to get some gas (petrol for non-US readers) for the mowers. Securing the gas cans in the bed of the truck is always a bit tricky, so on a whim I whipped up a wooden holder for them, that contains them securely:

It’s attached to the bed both via a bungee across the top, and a hook directly onto an attachment ring, so it won’t slide around:

I also did my monthly run to the local feed store (15 minutes away; the closest shops to home), where I got several bags of chicken feed, bird seed, and peanuts for the jays:

New field trees

Today we added a few more trees on the north border of our field.

Six new Leyland Cypress trees to replace existing ones that didn’t survive, and fill in some gaps:

Plus a couple of larger specimen trees:

A Tulip tree:

And a Dawn Redwood tree:

We also did some bondage and fencing on the weeping willow tree near the pond, that deer had pushed over:

Building a cat shelter: sliding maintenance door

I’ve decided to slow down work on the new cat house, as I need to spend more time on consulting and Dejal apps, and this isn’t urgent, since the cats already have a heated shelter and raccoon-proof feeder. But I am still keen to get this finished, and am enjoying working on it, so will do at least a few hours on it each weekend.

Yesterday I added wheels to the maintenance door; the whole front of the shelter portion of the structure. As mentioned in my previous post, I was originally going to have it swing open, but decided to make it slide instead, for weight reasons. So I got some little casters to make it slide more easily, and cut notches out of the bottom for them:

Here’s a closer view; you can also see the cat door temporarily in place (to check the fit):

I added a strip of plywood to hide the casters:

I also added a thin board to the back of the deck, to act as a track for the casters (and make the door the right height):

Here’s the door in place, opened:

And closed:

That’s basically it for this time. My next priority is a second beehive stand (for the two new hives we’ll be adding), and a rail for this door to slide on when open. Then probably the facades and trim. I mentioned last time that I was thinking about doing roofing next, but I think it’d be better to do that after the walls are painted. (I was going to do it before the facades due to the flashing at the back of them, but I realized I can build that as another separate piece, so can be lifted off for roofing.)

With my slower pace, I probably won’t finish this project until sometime in May, but that’s fine.

Building a cat shelter: roof & trim

I did some more work on the new cat house over the weekend, building the roof and some of the trim.

Firstly I made framing for the insulated ceiling of the shelter part:

And added three layers of the half-inch insulation foam. Heat rises, so I thought having thicker insulation in the ceiling made sense (and I bought more than I needed, so have plenty spare):

This ceiling was then attached to a half inch plywood panel, that will form the roof (the cutouts are for wires):

Here’s the roof installed, with some trim along the edge. Like the floor, the roof is not attached to the walls yet, so I can move the structure to the final destination in separate pieces; they will be screwed together there:

A view inside the shelter portion, with the ceiling in place:

I added a board above the top of the front wall, which will form the base of the front façade:

And started to add some trim on the corners etc. I also changed my mind on the maintenance door; as you know, the entire front of the shelter portion opens; I was going to have it swing open, hinged on the left, but decided that it’s too heavy for that to work well, so will make it slide to the left instead. It won’t be opened often (probably only a couple of times a year, to add or remove the heated beds, and close or open the vent covers), but I still want it to be fairly easy to open:

I added trim around the awnings; I bought metal drip strip for them, along with the roof, but I haven’t decided if I’ll actually use it on the awnings, since I worry about sharp edges close to the cats. I’ll decide that when I’m ready to do the roofing shingles. If I don’t, the trim will make the edge look nice; if I do, the trim will provide the right height backing for it:

More trim around the side door and corners; you can also see the underside of the roof overhang:

I’ve run out of 1×2 wood, and am ready for some other extra bits, so I’ll make a run to Home Depot later in the week. Next weekend I currently plan to do the roofing (drip strip, paper, and shingles). And perhaps more trim and/or the façades, if I have time.