The bees have been some what neglected this summer and have more or less looked after themselves.
Our home made bee hive with feeder outside; November 2013
We carried on feeding them late into the year because of the prolonged cold start.
The hive decided to swarm mid-July: on a very rare day when both me and my sister were unavailable to help collect the swarm from the tree they settled in before leaving never to be seen again. The hive was a little quiet for a few days but soon became active with no noticeable effect on numbers.
With the change in the season it has been time to think about supplying them with a little extra to keep them going through the cold winter months.
1 kilo sugar
1 litre water
1 spoonful cider vinegar
Add all the ingredients to a large pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool and place in dishes for your bees, adding small stones or gravel will help stop bees from drowning when they collect it up.
Back in the summer I was lucky enough to be taken to see a Sun Hive that was being built on landed belonging to a Camphill Community near by. The hives are similar to top bar hives but are built from reed baskets. The photos are not the best as I had my camera stolen soon after the visit but have managed to find a few to share
Am: Am early start this morning as my house-mates car is in the garage for it’s MOT and I have said I will take him into work and collect him again later. After dropping him off I take a hot drink back to bed and knit for about am hour. I am making a baby hat for my new niece which is going to look amazing when it is done but seems to be building up so very slowly. After I get up again I go and start the days chores of feeding and checking on everyone and between me and mother we get most things done in a reasonable time. I spend an hour or so cleaning out one of the goat sheds which is not currently being used. The weather is glorious, it has to be the hottest day of the year so far and it is bright sunshine. The bees are making the most of it and are out flying busily.
Lunch time: At about mid-day I go back to my house to have some lunch and spend the afternoon in my garden.
Afternoon: It’s still really warm out and it is lovely working outside. I sort out bits and piece and start planting out potatoes in old flower buckets. This year I haven’t bought seed potatoes but have some bags that were sprouting and reduced in the supermarket (Shetland Blacks and Exquisa) and I’ve added a few others from the veg shop to these (Benji and Maris Piper) and have been sent some free Rocket and Piccolo Star. I only manage to plant half of the Shetland Black’s and maybe a third of the Exquisa but it is a good start. Then I carry on into the back garden and plant out the garlic I have had growing on in pots, the blackbirds here seem to love garlic and onion sets to I have taken to planting them in pots with a cover over and then planting them out when they have got going enough for the birds not to be interested.
Late afternoon/evening: After collecting my house-mate from work I go back to finish off the goats for the day. My sister is there when I get back with her baby, it’s the first time she has walked home since the baby was born and we spend some time in the kitchen before having to go off and look for some sheep that have been reported out in the next village. It’s almost 100% certain they’re not any of ours as ours are all in as there has been an outbreak of Scab mite and the free roaming animals have all had to be brought in for treatment. Ours have all been treated and we are just waiting for everyone else to before ours can get back out on some grass. There’s no sign of the sheep so after half an hour or so of driving around we go back and I finish the goats for the day and go home.
At home the Green Party candidate for the council elections drops some leaflets off as I’ve said I’ll post some through letterboxes locally. It’s still really warm outside so I carry on pottering in the garden and then sit out whilst the sun goes down and watch the bats as they start flying in the dusk
I’ve lost my camera so can’t share the photos of how far I have got with my new vegetable garden but in the last month or so I have changed it from an area of brambles, nettles, bindweed and willow-herb reaching over my head to a much calmer area which now even boasts its first bed made from the breeze blocks found hidden the undergrowth.
It very much feels like autumn now but that doesn’t matter; there is still plenty to do in readiness for next year’s main growing season and this month I would like to tick a few off:
Finish filling first vegetable bed
Plant onion sets and buy and plant garlic sets
Plant out the spring green plants which are waiting impatiently in their pots
Buy and plant an amazing amount of crocus for some early bee feed in the New Year
I’m sure I will do other things and possibly even get distracted along the way but a plan is a good start to the month
Many, many times I have wanted to sit down and write over the past months but I have only managed to do so a few times and only a handful of those few times have I managed to write something coherent. Part of my problem has been knowing where to start again as so much has been happening and time just seems to keep marching on without anytime to take stock, or breath before another week, two weeks, a month has pasted. But I will try…
Dog rose flower; somewhere along Lydney Docks - 14th June 2011
Family and health (or lack of it.) Since Easter my dad has spent more time in hospital than at home, just him being so ill takes up a massive amount of time and energy but when he is in hospital then someone visits him everyday, which takes up most of every afternoon. Mother is bearing the brunt of it but is has everyone stretched and then the few days that he has been at home, maybe even a week if you add all the days together, it is a battle. He can hardly do anything for himself, and getting him to eat… And every time he has been rushed back in within days of being discharged for one reason or another. This last time he didn’t make it to resus which is an improvement, but is does leave everyone on edge waiting for the next phone call to say he is coming home, not really coming home or been rushed back in.
I have also still been trying to sort out my health problems, I have changed doctors and hopefully now am getting somewhere. I feel a little bit like I’m being a hypercondriac as a part from a few blips I am mostly fine, and feel better than I have in years, but I know if I don’t get things sorted then I could end up back in the mess I was in a few years ago and I don’t ever want to go back there so it has to be sort out.
Work. It is all change at work again; I seem to write this so often but at the moment the three years of funding we had has come to an ended and there is only work for me until the end of September. I realised I have been very silly as although I’ve been doing my job for two years now I have been reluctant, or completely refused, to do the university course that would mean I was qualified to be doing my job so I now only have my experience and the good name of the charity I work for if I was to go up against someone else if another very rear job were to come up. I am annoyed with myself for letting this happen but the work / home life balance is a great battle I always seem to be fighting and committing myself to an extra day or more a week away from home to be qualified for something I was already doing perfectly well was something I was not willing to do… Add to that the growing suspicion that I would have hated the course and it has been one of the very few times home life has won over. The summer holidays started this week, so our busiest time of year, and I am only working ‘my patch’ one day a week and so doing a fair amount of travelling, also seem to have taken on an extra half a day more than I promised myself I would.
Flowers at Ryton Gardens; I have no idea what these are - 11th September 2010
Holiday. I had a whole week off at the start off this month and I did hardly anything with it which is not like me at all, normally for a month before time off I am writing a list of every backbreaking job I want to get finish whilst I ‘have time’. I think I still had a list but in the end I just pottered about and spent time with friends. It was nice, needed and somehow I have managed not to beat myself up about not ‘getting things done’.
Busy bees; comb after less than a month they moved into the hive - 11th July 2011
Bees. This is possibly the most exciting news of all and from the second the swarm arrived I have wanted to blog about it but not jinx it. WE HAVE BEES!!! Last year mother was given a top bar beehive by her sister and since then the plan has been to start keeping bees again. We had our name down for a swarm but weren’t really doing anything more proactive about getting one as everything else has been some manic. Then, during a complete nightmare of a week a swarm just arrived on a gorse bush just across from the house, a neighbour almost walked into it and came and knocked on the door as he knew we wanted one. Him and middle-younger-sister carried the hive out and left it near to them with the lid off in the hope they would go in and then I arrived home (on a call that the cows where out, it was that kind of week) to find mother cutting the branch they were on and putting it into the hive. And they have been with us ever since!
Growing in numbers - 30th July 2011
It has been amazing watching them build their combs and how they change; to begin with they were not in the least bit worried about us opening up the hive and I have even been in there without a hat or vail and have still not worn gloves but they have started getting a little more up set if the hive is open now. The comb seems to change every time we look in there as well; to begin with it was white and looked so breakable, then you could see the different between the honey and brood cells and now the comb is covered is golden stickiness.
Each time we open the hive I have been taking photos and have created a new Flickr set to record it – Bees
Goats. It would seem that I am not kidding this year after all. I’m not too worried about it as I know the Jelly Beanies kidded fine and they were living in with Knightshade at the same time but it is a bit disappointing. I have put Briony up for sale and am trying to find somewhere/someone who will take Bella on loan for a year or so until I am more sorted. I have had lots of phone calls and emails about them but haven’t been sorted enough to contact people and both Briony and Bella make it impossible to take photos of them as they are just to interested in the camera or having a fuss. I was looking at their ‘baby photos’ the other day and I can’t believe have they have completely changed colour and markings, they are now both mottled and patchy and stunning.
Outside… It is mid afternoon, it’s been sunny for most of the day but has clouded over a little now
I am thinking or plotting… A weekend of garden and allotmentness. This weekend is open gardens for both and I have a HelpX person staying (she arrived on Wednesday) and so hopefully will be able to get some two people jobs done. Also very much looking for a week off, I really do need it!
From the kitchen… I’m thinking cauliflower cheese fir dinner, possibly with roast potatoes
I am wearing… Short trousers, a red top with a flower on and blue and pink striped socks.
I am creating… Still ongoing with the order, and I have been cutting up lots of plastic for a mat, I hate running out half way through and having to stop weaving to cut more up.
I am going… To the allotment soon, and to buy a cauli for dinner I guess
I am reading… I’m dipping in and out lots of things are the moment but Living the Good Life is the book holding all my garden notes
Here is a picture I want to sharing and why… The most exciting thing to happen last month was this swarm of bees landing across the road from our house (e.g. my mothers house), they are now living in a top bar hive in the garden and touch wood are staying put meaning we now have bees!!!
Back in January I went to watch The Vanishing of the Bees (thank you to Nip it in the Bud for letting me know it was on.) The film was really interesting and anyone who gets the chance to go and see it should, after the film there was a talk by someone from The Global Bee Project which is a charity whose sole aim is to educate people about bees and their importance. The charity is a locally based one but this was the first time I had heard of them and the talk was invaluable for putting the film into context.
The Vanishing of the Bees focuses on just one type of bee, the European honey bee, which is the specie of bee that is most commonly farmed for pollination and honey, however it is far from being the only species of bee with 20,000 bee species world-wide, more than birds and mammals combined, and 256 species of bee in the UK. The oldest bee found is 18 million years old, they are evolved from wasps with bees being vegetarian and having body hair, wasps will eat meat and are without hair.
As well as the European Honey Bee there are 500 other species of bee that produce ‘honey’ but only the ‘honey’ from the European bee can be sold as honey. 80% of bees are solitary and honeybees are descended from solitary bees. Solitary bees are actually better pollinators as they eat pollen but the European bee is easier to farm in large numbers and so travels for anything up to a week at a time to pollinate crops around the world.
The number of honey bees has doubled in the last 50 years because of the increase in demand of ‘luxury” foods such as strawberries which are pollinated by bees. Bees also pollinate cotton and 80% of the amazon trees are pollinated by bees so it is not just food production that is reliant on them. 25% of all species rely on a bee specie for their survival other than the honey bee (I think that is what my notes say?) however the Australian government wiped out all the wild bees in the country so as they could not spread disease to the European bee when it was first imported.
The European honey bee is native to the UK, which is possibly why Colony Collapse Disorder has not yet been seen on the same scale as in the U.S. which is now importing bees from Australia to cope with the demand for bee pollination of crops with the reduced bee population there.
The film suggests a strong link between Colony Collapse Disorder and the use of a pesticide called Gaucho, something which sadly doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by the British government, but the whole way bees are treated, with colonies being shipped backwards and forwards around countries, fed on poor quality food replacements, completely horrified me.
The picture of beekeepers I have in my head are people like my granddad, who had a few hives in his garden in the middle of Cambridgeshire or one of mothers best friends who had a hive just because she liked having bees around. A far cry from the warehouse like buildings where pallet loads of bee hives wrapped in plastic were being loaded by forklifts onto refrigerated lorries and then driven in convoy across states and then back again just weeks later. It is not natural for 20, 50, 100 hives and more to be in the same place and there can only ever be enough feed for this amount of colonies if humans provide it. From the way it was depicted in the film modern bee keeping is not any different from battery hen farming.
A patch of wild flowers humming with insect life in the evening sun (does anyone know what these flowers are?) - 14th May 2010
The Co-op funded the film and has taken the step of banning all fruit and vegetables that are treated with pesticides that are linked to bee deaths, which is a pretty impressive step. Research has shown that the lose between crops that have been treated with pesticides and not is still about the same, as some of a crop will always be lost.
The French Government also took the step of banning the use of Gaucho on crops when French beekeepers first suspected a link between the pesticide and Colony Collapse Disorder over ten years ago. French beekeepers filmed bees on treated sunflowers and non-treated sunflowers, the bees on the treated sunflowers behaviour in an disoriented manner, often dropping to the ground and manically trying to clean the pollen from themselves, where as the bees on non-treated flowers followed an orderly pattern over the flower head and then flew on.
The Vanishing of the Bees is mostly based in the U.S. which is a shame as I would have liked to have known more about what is happening in England, and where I can made a difference. Interestingly, but sadly not surprisingly, most of the money for research into Colony Collapse Disorder is coming from the very companies that produce the pesticides that are possibly responsible, which begs the question is research funded by them really going to find that their product is cause great harm to all living kind? Part of me has faith that they would if they are bothering to fund the research, but another part is more sceptical.
If you have not been lucky enough to be able to go and see this film locally then I think I have found a way to get it for FREE! A friend who is fundraising for a research expedition in Malawi sent me a link to this site (easyfundraising.org.uk), if you sign up then LoveFilm are offering a free trial membership and they also donate £5 to the research trip. I have looked through their website and they do have The Vanishing of the Bees available in their shop so I am guessing that they will have it in their rental selection (although I have not way of checking this without first signing myself) just remember to cancel your membership before the free offer runs out if you do not wish to stay a member*
* I can in no way be held responsible for memberships that are taken out with either easyfundraising.org.uk or any of the links on their website, I am just trying to share a worthy film with as many people as possible. I do not gain anything from this
After growing up on a smallholding surrounded by ancient woodlands filled with beauty, adventure and the freedom roam as far as my little legs could carry me I am trying to creat a slice of the good life and a special place in the world that I can call my own... Without having to let go of any of the magic of childhood or join the Rat Race to get there