Beekeeping, Gardening and Quilting in Eastern Wake County, North Carolina

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Buncombe County Beekeeper - Calvin Robinson

In the Fall 2008 North Carolina Bee Buzz (newsletter for the NC State Beekeepers Assn), there's an article written by Calvin Robinson "What Can I Do to Help the Bees?" He does not use chemicals to treat his bees although when he first started beekeeping he was encouraged to use chemicals. This is still the school of thought for many beekeepers. Mr. Robinson is now raising his own queens, not using chemicals and not using bought foundation.

When I first started beekeeping, I did treat my bees with chemicals during the winter (I was also encouraged by my mentor to treat with chemicals) but after the first year I decided to stop. I have 3 hives and 2 nucs - all healthy and full of bees - ready for the winter.

Five hives is about the most I can or want to handle and provides me with more honey than I can possibly use during the year.

In his article, Mr. Robinson makes a very valid point - we need more beekeepers with 2 or 3 hives. A hobbyist beekeeper with a couple of hives can devote more time to observation, innovation, and experimentation than a commercial beekeeper who is having to meet a bottom line.

If you know of someone who is interested in beekeeping, please encourage them to attend some local beekeeper meetings. Better yet, visit the NC State Fair this year - there will be a great bee exhibit and lots of folks to answer questions.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The land of milk and honey

Sefer Torah at old Glockengasse synagogue, Cologne

This year beginning at sundown Monday (today) starts the two-day celebration of Rosh Hashana.

They have a unique tradition of starting the Jewish New Year dinner by dipping apple wedges in honey. Part of the rationale behind honey's centrality to the holiday lies in ancient history. In biblical days, there was no sugar. Honey symbolized pleasure and was so important that the ancient Land of Israel is referred to in the Torah as "the land of milk and honey".

I didn't know all this since I'm not Jewish but in last Wednesday's News and Observer was an article "A Honey of a Holiday" with some recipes using honey.

But the general idea here, eat honey whether you're Jewish or not!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 2008 "Honey Month"

September 2008

Declared "Honey Month" in North Carolina
in a
Proclamation signed on August 26, 2008 by Governor
Michael Easley.

North Carolina has the largest number of individual beekeepers in the nation (over 10,000) and the all-volunteer North Carolina State Beekeepers Association is the largest organization of its kind in the nation.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


The Lakenvelder is named "Dottie" and she is so sweet. I pick her up and she's just as docile as can be.

Dottie will have black on her head and tail feathers - not solid but a mix with the white. They are really pretty chickens. Now don't forget, she's a Type A personality in the chicken world - whatever that means.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ellie Mae

The little black hen is now named. She is a black sex link pullet. She's a cross between two breeds: a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Barred Rock hen. When she grows up, she'll have black legs, a red comb, black feathers on her body and a gold chest. She's already very pretty.

She already has a little bit of personality showing - she's a late sleeper. She'll lay brown eggs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Naming the Chickens

When I told the girls I was getting chickens, I said they could name one each and what would they prefer their chickens to be - you know, color wise. One wanted black and one wanted something speckled or dotted! So even though they will probably never touch these chickens, I tried to get the right color or at least close to it.

"The Little Red Hen" - I just loved that story, you know, she did all the work! So the little red sex link pullet is mine. She is a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Delaware hen.

She is named Miss Minnie after my paternal grandmother. She passed on when my Dad was about 19, so needless to say, I know very little about her but that's what I wanted to name my hen.

Personality wise, I think she will be top chicken in the coop. A little pecky sometimes. Another brown egg layer and these sex link chickens do the job with egg laying from what I've been reading. She, unfortunately like me, is not very photogenic.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Who would have known this - well, not me . . . .

Lakenvelder cattle from the Netherlands like the chickens. Similar to our Belted Galloways that are famous at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. And we have some right down the road from the house - I call them "Oreo" cows.

The dutch birds (chickens) are thought to be named after the town of Lakenvelt, but they were developed in Germany. So they are good egg laying hens, a little flighty, and have a "Type A" personality for a chicken!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Building the Coop

Building a coop is not an easy job - particularly when you're not a carpenter - but you can do anything if you set your mind to it. The run and the small chicken house were built by my beekeeper friend. He is a carpenter but you can only ask for so much.

The nest boxes are on the end of the small house and can be accessed from the outside - really great idea. The top lifts up which I'll show on another day.

This part - the roosting coop was built by me and at no cost - free labor and materials. These are privacy fence panels - worked out to be about the right size - the little hens will stay nice and dry in there.

The run is attached with wire and the opening for them to go and come - the front door for access. I put a double layer of heavy duty plastic on the top and had some old shingles to go over that so it shouldn't leak.

Not bad for not knowing what the heck you were doing and the little hens are very happy in their new home.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Guess What I've Got . . . .

Chickens - three little hens. I picked them up yesterday from Amy in Castalia - she had an ad on Craigslist - lots of chickens and other assorted animals at her place.

You think you know what you want until you actually see them - so, this is what I got and they are sweet!

A black sexlink, a red sexlink and a lakenvelder.

Black and white and red all over!

Lily is checking them out while they're having a little lettuce and pecking around.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bugfest - Saturday 9/20/08

Saturday, September 20 - NC Museum of Natural Sciences 9:00 am - 9:00 pm

The Wake County Beekeepers Association will be out in full force Saturday with an observation hive, honey for sale, beekeepers to answer all your questions and much, much more.

And to answer the most asked question, "where's the queen?"

A master bee keeper Larry Green Jr. of the Wake County Beekeepers Association does his bearded lady act for the fifth year at Bugfest where he covers his face in bees. He does this act to teach kids to not be afraid of bees and to help bring public awareness about honey bees.
Denton Bell is on the left in the photo. If you look closely, you'll see the queen cage under Larry's chin. When bees swarm, the workers will protect and keep the queen safe - so in Larry's case, they'll protecting the queen and providing a safe haven for her - they're unconcerned about Larry and he could be a stick for all they care. So 99% of the time - no stings.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bee Joke of the Day

What's a bees favorite flower?

A bee-goina!

Semperflorens Begonias - probably the most widely grown begonia and in some parts of the country is called "wax type" because of the waxy look to the leaves.

These begonias are grown mostly as bedding plants and annuals but are really a perennial shrub type of begonia in areas that don't freeze (they don't overwinter here). All have shiny leaves, green or bronze, flowers come in single and double and are ever-blooming in every shade of red, pink and white.

Photo by Julie Vanderwilt
America Begonia Society

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Different Spin

A suggestion from one of the older, more experienced beekeepers - since Nuc #1 (on the left) is irritable - get a pinwheel or a stick with a string to blow in the wind and put beside the nuc. This gives them a little distraction.

I'll try anything to get these girls to settle down a little.

I'm thinking my pinwheel might be a little much - I need to find something smaller.

This photo was taken after I put the super on Nuc #1 - we'll see if the "extras" work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Last month at the bee meeting, I asked several beekeepers this question, "Should or could I go ahead and put a full super of honey on the nucs and quit feeding them?" I got several different answers. So I left well enough alone and continued to feed. But I have been very slack about the feeding and I've been concerned that wax moths would get in the hive and they could starve while I'm sitting around with my hands in my pants.

So yesterday (and thank goodnes it wasn't quite so hot), I opened both nucs. Nuc #2 was calm and easy - no bees flying straight at me and when I put the jar of sugar syrup in the brood box, they were okay - again, no buzzing around. So I'll continue to feed them.

Now Nuc #1 - well, that's a different story completely. As soon as I opened the top, they were ticked off. The sugar syrup was gone so I just took the empty brood box off and opened the hive. I wanted to see what was happening, check for wax moths, etc. They are full of bees - I pulled out one frame and lots and lots of bees in there. I stopped with one frame simply because they were all at home since it was late in the day and they were a little irritated.

I put a super of honey on this nuc - it was old honey that I had put in the freezer (due to wax moths in a hive or something) and on Sunday I had taken them out to thaw. But this will give them some room and some food - not every frame was completely full of honey. I wanted to be sure they still have room to work.

They were busy, busy when I closed the hive. I hope this makes them calmer - maybe they just didn't have any room and that's why they were irritable. I sure hope so - I'm just trying to help those girls.

Beekeeping is sometimes a guessing game - I might do it right today and do it wrong tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Beautyberry Bush (Callicarpa)

American Beautyberry bushes are native to the southeastern United States. They grow quite well in our area and one bush will give you many, many more in a short period of time - seed dropping by the birds - you don't have to do anything.

They have been found to be a natural insect repellent to the mosquitos which carry yellow fever and malaria, as well as the tick which carries Lyme disease.

And you can make wine and jelly from the berries.

The berries are at their prettiest right now - these bushes are some of several I have in the yard. The birds will not eat them until all other sources of food are gone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Five Little Indians - I mean fishes!

This is a half gallon whiskey barrel with a plastic liner. I've been meaning to get some fish all summer. Didn't want to move fish from my big pond so Wallyworld (Walmart) here we come.

I got 5 fish and they were 38 cents each. They're little bitty things - about an inch long. They're still alive and swimming around.

I don't know if they'll overwinter - the fish in the big pond do and I never have any freeze to death. The pond has frozen solid but that was many years ago - our winters have not been freezing cold in many years.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Good Soaking Rain

Day before yesterday (the 10th), we got another soaking rain during the morning and light rain pretty much all day. According to my rain gauge - give or take a little - some over 4". And Thursday (the 11th) was overcast and still misting some.
And last night we got more rain - less than 1/2" and this morning is overcast.

It's supposed to be back to the norm this weekend - hot and muggy.

Lily will be ready will be ready with her pool full of water.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Urban Beekeepers

In yesterday's News and Observer, there's an article about beekeeping "The latest buzz - Urban beekeeping is swelling". It's a great article and mentions that the NC Beekeepers Association is the largest in the nation with almost 2,000 members. Danny and Mary Jaynes (the Wake County Beekeepers Chapter president and wife) are mentioned. They have 19 hives over in Willow Springs and 30-plus hives here and there. Also, Shannon Hughes, another member of our beekeeping group - 20-30 hives in Fuquay Varina.

Beekeeper Elka Harabin uses smoke to calm the bees before opening their box to feed the hive seven pounds of sugar dissolved in water.

Elka Harabin displays a section of a bee box. The box, started in a friend's downtown yard in May, is thriving.

Thank goodness folks are realizing the importance of bees - always glad to see coverage in the newspaper.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goldenrod (Solidago)

It's that time of the year - goldenrod in full bloom.


Although some folks still believe it's the cause, it has been wrongly accused for the pollen problems created by ragweed and the grasses.
Goldenrods are, in some places, held as a sign of good luck or good fortune, but they are considered weeds by most folks.

Honey from goldenrods often is dark and strong due to mixing with other nectars. When there is a strong honey flow, a light, spicy-tasting honey is produced. While the bees are ripening the honey there is a rank odor and taste but the finished honey is much milder.

Thomas Edison experimented with making goldenrod a domestic source of rubber during the second World War. Goldenrod contains rubber naturally. The tires on the Model T given to Edison by his friend Henry Ford were made from goldenrod. Examples of rubber can still be found in his laboratory, elastic and rot free after more than 50 years. Goldenrod rubber never went beyond the experimental stage.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Sprinkle A Day

It's still pretty hot - the dog days of summer.
This is how Lily cools off - a little sprinkle.

Monday, September 8, 2008


We got over 5" of rain from Hannah - much needed and the grass is growing.
And those pesky mosquitos - well, they're having a big time in my yard.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Little Black Kittie and the Black Car

Color coordinated and ready to go!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Checking Up and Feeding

While I was gone, the bees did without their sugar syrup. So late yesterday afternoon (about 6:30 or so), I gave them some syrup. I will open them in a couple of weeks and look thru the brood box - winter checkup, then I'll add a full super of honey from one of the other hives to each nuc. This should take them thru the winter.

This is Hive #1 - I'm still fascinated with the crack in the back of the hive and how they're always out there working. They were busy late yesterday - I know they're aware of the weather changing and the rain coming from Hannah.

I sure hope we get some good rain - a heavy soaking would be good.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I've blogged about the bluebirds in my yard this year. For some reason, the parents abandoned this last setting.

I've cleaned the nest and hope they'll be back in the spring.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Quilting Bee August Meeting

Our quilting bee met on the 23rd of August - a week early due to the Labor Day holiday. We had another all day event with good food and lots of sewing.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Another patriotic quilt which will probably be in the Fall Harvest Sale.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We're Back!

Playing in the river - does it get any better!

A fish fry with all the fixings and the best part - somebody else cleaned them and cooked them - fresh catfish and bream - eat, eat, eat!

And a trip to Mary Jo's in Gastonia - whew - it doesn't get much better!

This is some of what I got - yep, there's more.

I was having a dots and stripes day.