Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my NZ family and friends, and happy Christmas eve to others in the US etc, or whatever holiday tradition you celebrate. We will be doing something a little different this year: our annual Hobbitfest tomorrow, and family Christmas next weekend. 

Changed the website theme

I have changed the theme of the Yellow Cottage Homestead website to match the one I use for my Dejus blog. Mainly because I like that it shows large images, instead of wasting a lot of horizontal space on a sidebar.

The sidebar is still available; just click/tap the “hamburger” (three horizontal lines) in the upper-left corner of the page.

I removed the header images from both sites, since they just require extra work to scroll past. I would like to add some links below the header row, but haven’t figured out how to do that with this theme yet; I probably need to do more customizations.

Finally, I’ve also changed the background color on both sites, to help distinguish them; yellow for Yellow Cottage, green for Dejus. Not sure I’ll stick with that, since it’s a bit unusual, but we’ll see.

Bees at the fast food restaurant

For new beehives, that are building up their brood frames and their own honey reserves (and not yet producing honey for us to harvest), we feed them a 2:1 mix of sugar and water, that I call bee juice.

This is the bee equivalent of fast food: rather than flying to harvest nectar from flowers, and arduously converting it into honey, they can just sip up the sugar water from a convenient feeder right in front of the hive, and store that away for later.

(Fun fact: an average worker bee will produce only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. And yes, the workers are all female.)

Of course, bee juice isn’t as good for them, and we certainly don’t want to feed this to bees producing honey for us (we want real honey, not sugar water), but it really helps young hives get off the ground.

I refilled the dispensers on our two new hives this morning. With the plastic jar removed, you can see several bees sipping at the sugar water (the wooden base is hollow, so they can crawl from the hive to under the feeder):

Here’s the feeder with the jar in place:

Each hive will typically go through a jar of juice in about a week. Each jar contains 4 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water, which takes quite a while to dissolve in a pot on the oven hob. (For comparison, hummingbird juice is 1:4, i.e. 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water, which I can dissolve just using hot water from the tap.)

Five years

Yesterday marked the five year anniversary of moving in to our homestead.

It was already landscaped when we bought it, but we have done lots of additional improvements, including planting lots of trees (and removing some too), adding bark and other decorative touches, adding and extending garden beds, and much more.

It’s impressive just looking at the tree growth over these years.

Here are some pictures from five years ago, and the corresponding views today.







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:

Heated shelter for outdoor cats

It’s a little chilly at present… like dipping down to 25° F / -4° C overnight. Which is fine for us, and as discussed is okay for the chickens, but not entirely pleasant for the feral outdoor cats. Sure, they can snuggle together in a sheltered place, but I still felt bad for them.

So, I decided to get them a heated shelter. I bought an outdoor multi-kitty A-frame shelter from Amazon, that is big enough for several cats, and includes a pad that emits a bit of warmth.

I placed it next to the deck, under which the cats often shelter from the elements. I put a camera pointed at it, so I could see if they used it:

I really wasn’t sure if they’d try it, or avoid it as something strange, being cats. But pretty much moments after I left, they started “investicating” it, and soon afterwards some of them went inside. They looked very comfy in there:

I think it might be a success. But we’ll see how it goes long-term… and whether or not the raccoons cause trouble for the cats.