Blog posts from July 2011

Baby chicks first visit outside…

Jul 25, 2011

I took the new baby girls outside for the firs time...They got a little rowdy, so we didn't stay out there long (it's kinda hard to catch these little munchkins once they decide to run, lol). There are two Polish hens and one Cochin. Looks like the black white-crested Polish is actually turning into a speckled, but the Blue looks like she's going to be a lovely color - even her legs are turnig silver. I was hoping for a Blue Cochin, but she's turing out to be a black (you only end up with 25% actual "blues" with any breed, so you end up with the rest being black or speckled, which are both still pretty). Too cute!


Blue Polish chick

Black (or speckled) white crested Polish chick

Black Cochin chick

Honey extraction…first year

Jul 23, 2011

So, this morning we extracted honey from one of our backyard hives. We didn't even take the whole super's worth of frames, we left a few behind and only extracted from about 6 frames. Here are some photos of the process...

Here is me using the the bump and brush method, after a little smoking, to remove the bees from the honey super.

They are not happy about getting brushed off their honey frames...after we collected all the frames we wanted to harvest, we put them into another waiting empty super and slipped it inside a plastic bag for transport to the honey house.

Here I am at the honey house using the hot knife to remove the beeswax capping from the honey comb. You basically slice off the capping and collect it in a tray below (you'll save this wax and honey for's yummy!)

A close up of the wax capping coming off the honey comb...

Then, you use a metal comb to break open any remaining cell not opened by the hot knife...

The frames are then carefully placed inside an extractor, which is basically like a large centrifuge that spins out all the honey at high speed.

The honey drains out of the extractor into a food-grade plastic collecting bucket, filtered by two metal sieves and a straining cloth. So pretty!

Excess honey is squeezed out of the straining cloth...

And here is our beautiful honey! We didn't end up with a great quantity, but from only 6 frames we got about a gallon and a half of beautiful golden honey. It is very thick with a wonderful floral flavor. We tested the moisture content and it measured 17%. A good quality honey shouldn't have more than 18% and preferably a little less. Too much moisture in the honey means your honey can ferment later on, plus it makes it thin. With the drought this year, it's no surprise we came in at 17%. While the drought keeps us from getting as much honey, the honey we get is of higher quality. The bees will usually tell you themselves when your honey is at the right moisture content for harvesting, because they will cap it off between 17%-18%.

And don't forget that bonus honey and comb...I jarred it's like candy!

I'll be jarring up some of our "Sweet Beez Backard Honey" for family and a few friends over the next week. Looking forward to a big harvest next year!

Off to harvest backyard honey…

Jul 23, 2011

BeeI'll be harvesting honey from one of our backyard hives this morning. As mentioned in an earlier post I'll only be harvesting from one of the 4 hives I'm maintaining. The weather this spring and summer has just been brutal on new growing hives. But for the first harvest it looks like we are going to get plenty off of just this one happy hive. I'll post some photos of the process. Can't wait to taste!

Tough Summer Bloomers: Cone Flowers

Jul 19, 2011

Here are some of the lovely Cone Flowers, Echinacea spp., blooming in my garden right now. While many plants are literally melting away in the heat, these tough perennials are comign into their own. They show best when it's nice and hot outside...

Echinacea 'Mama Mia'

Echinacea 'Summer Sky'

Echinacea 'Summer Sun'

Echinacea 'Tangerine Dream'

Interestingly, many of these new varieties of cone flower have the most wonderful fragrance, which you don't get in the species or older cultivars. It's always a unexpected surprise to walk by them and get a waft of their sweet scent.

Build it…and they will come…

Jul 18, 2011

Nature is smart...when you build a garden, wildlife moves in. As I've been adding to my new garden, more little creatures have started to visit me. One thing you'll notice when you start adding more plants to your garden is the presence of dragonflies and damselflies. My yard is always full of them mid-morning...I'll look to the left and to the right, to my neighbors dragonflies. My yard...full of them. It's so fun to watch. Butterflies and bees have discovered the Echinacea, basil flowers, salvias and more. Hummingbirds are enjoying the Tecoma stans. And of course, the squirrels are enjoying the tomatoes and the birds feast on the strawberries. Look, you just gotta share, lol.

Last night I saw my first exciting nocturnal visitor...a bat! He/she few right over my head in the driveway at about 9pm. It looked like it could have been a Pallid bat, but no way to know for sure. Yay bats!

Antrozous_pallidus1 Pallid Bat, Photo courtesy NPS



Tough Summer Bloomers: Pride of Barbados

Jul 18, 2011

I'll be posting a series of photos of plants that are beating the heat in my summer garden. With the hottest June on record just past and no end in sight for the 103+ temps it's good to know which plants can take the heat and still look beautiful in the garden.

Here is a lovely Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, I keep in a large container on the front porch. It gets scalding hot Western sun in the afternoon. But it's beautiful!

Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Caesalpinia pulcherrima_flower

Tomato ‘Sapho’...still harvesting!

Jul 16, 2011

Still harvesting off my spring planted 'Sapho' plants...

Pulled these beauties off one plant today. Even though they are still producing a small amount of new fruit, I decided to go ahead and pull out the plants and put the new plants in for fall harvest. Even if the plants still look ok through summer, I find that I never get a really good harvest in the fall off of spring-planted tomatoes. Best to go ahead and plant new ones. If you have your fall transplants, get them in the ground ASAP!

Summer Tomato Planting Tip:  The brutal heat and sun this time of year can scortch new tomato transplants. It helps to cover new transplants with some shade cloth or frost cloth (row cover) for a few days until plants get acclimated. You'll also need to water daily until plants root and start to grow.

Cute baby chicks…My July 4th babies

Jul 14, 2011

Ok..are these babies cute are what??? Here they are about a week old...

Little Cochin...hopefully a Blue, but probably a Black

Little Polish...White Crested Black, or may end up Speckled

Little Polish #2...Looks like she will be a Silver/Blue! (yay)


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