For That'll Do Farm, the last full weekend in September is always reserved for National Alpaca Farm Days. It's the weekend we throw open the barn doors and welcome visitors to show them what life on an alpaca/sheep/goat/bee/produce farm is all about.
We've always had great weather, (you know I've now just jinxed it for next year!) and this year was no exception. Visitors were lining up to see the alpacas.
And to maybe meet one up-close-and-personal . . . even if there was some initial fear.
One of our Fiber CSA knitters finished her "Charlie's Angel" sweater in time to wear it to the Open House and to model with the animal that produced the beautiful yarn.
Alpaca and sweater got along just fine.
The bees behaved themselves nicely for the event as well.
Visitors were able to see the queen on one of the frames.
We even had a visitor whom we have dubbed the "Bee Whisperer" for obvious reasons.
And no, she did not get stung.
However, most of the crowd decided to tour the bee yard from a more respectible distance.
The goats, as always, were a crowd favorite.
Within five minutes of the first guests arriving, the goats figured out if they stood by the gate and bleated like babies, they would soon get acorns and scratches on the head.
Goats can work a crowd like nobody's business.
We are lucky to have a group of dedicated knitters that spend the last Saturday of every month knitting with us here at the farm, and the Open House happens to fall on the last Saturday of the month. These ladies are prolific. Sweaters, socks, scarves, blankets . . . you name it, these women knit it and knit it well.
They showed visitors what they were knitting and told them the ins-and-outs of their projects. I think we may have hooked a few new knitters! We're always happy to introduce newbies to a brand new addiction . . . I mean craft.
So a great big thank you to all who came out to tour the farm. We appreciate your support and your interest in the farm.
Hope to see you next year!
Who knew today would be so exciting. It started out ordinary enough. Rainy. Slightly warm. Windy. Typical, typical for this Spring.
But then Michael went to check on his bee hives and the day changed.
In a tree, near the hives, was a swarm of bees.
Swarming is when the queen bee leaves her colony with a big group of her worker bees to form a new colony.
We checked our hives and don't think this swarm came from them. We think this is a swarm from somebody else's hives as we didn't see swarm cells in any of our hives.
Once discovered, it was time to gather the supplies to capture the swarm:
A hive box, clippers for the tree and a box to put the cut limb in for moving.
Then it was off to the swarm area for capturing.
A swarm of bees can look pretty frightening, but they are usually not aggressive. They don't have any brood (eggs and larva) to defend and their only interest is in finding a new home for the queen. The key word here is usually. Bees will attack if they think you are a threat. We made darn sure we were as unthreatening as possible!
Quietly, Michael went about cutting the limb and placing it in the box. (Quietly, I went about standing away from the swarm and taking pictures!) Then the box with the limb is taken to the hive box and shaken into the hive box.
It didn't take long. The bees appeared to like their new home.
Today, we check on the hive box to see if they really did like it and we have a new hive. If so, we would then have six hives of bees, which would mean lots more honey this fall.
Keep your fingers crossed that our swarm capture worked.
Late last week, in between rainstorms, we installed three new hives of honeybees at That'll Do Farm.
As in all things bee-related, "we" is a relative term. I watched from afar while the men folk did the installing. I'm not exactly afraid of the bees (maybe just a tiny bit), but I am fearful of the swelling I exhibit when stung. Not pretty. Besides, somebody has to take the pictures. We can't have the very dedicated beekeepers stopping what they are doing to take pictures. So I volunteered for that job.
We purchased three boxes of Italian bees, with a queen for each. Each box contains about 10,000 bees. As we carried the boxes to the hives, I heard the flowers thanking us as we passed by. The vegetables will thank us, too . . . if it ever stops raining long enough to plant them.
We sprayed the boxes with a sugar water solution so they had a little something to eat. I don't know about you, but I'm less angry with a little sugar in my system. And we could do with less angry bees.
As you can see, two of the beekeepers ignored the sign about wearing a bee suit. The other one had his bee jacket on. Can you guess which one got strung? If you guessed the beekeepr on the left with the white jacket, you are correct!
But all is well in the bee kingdon. We are watching and waiting to see if the new queens are good queens. If so, the home building begins and we are on our way to more delicious honey.
Five hives should mean lots of honey and a whole lot of pollinating going on in the garden -- both are good things.
Tomorrow is the big day.
Three more queen bees are moving in and they are bringing with them 30,000 of their working friends.
We have their new homes ready for them.
The two hives on the right were from last year. After an excellent harvest of honey last fall, the hives were wrapped with roofing paper to help keep out the cold Winter winds.
The honey gods were smiling on us because both hives, along with their queens, survived and are already hard at work making this years' crop of honey. We've been feeding them a sugar water mixture to help them out a bit until more plants come into bloom.
These are the three new hives, just waiting for their queens to arrive.
Tomorrow, we will drive about an hour to the bee supply store and pick up our three Italian queen bees, along with three packages of bees, each containing about 10,000 bees.
We'll then set the queen in the hive and release the bees. If they accept her as their queen, we will be in business. If not, then we have to get a new queen. Being a queen isn't all it's cracked up to be -- lots of work; the need for acceptance from the office workers; having babies right and left. And even after all that, the angry mob still might dethrone you. Who said it's good to be the queen. Certainly not the queen herself!
Last years' setting of the hive went well, with nary a sting. We will see what adventures this year brings.
But one taste of the delicious honey and you would agree with me that it's all worth it!