Tag Archives: beehives

A lot has happened on the farm since my last post, so here’s an update on the goats, strawberries, vines and bees.

Quizno, our buck,  was happily reunited with the does at the end of the June. Sara says that not only was Quizno elated but the ladies were pretty darn happy to see him, as well. They

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are now enjoying the ample grass and forage in their new field and, hopefully, all or some of the does are already carrying their next offspring.  The average gestation period for meat goats is 150 days, which means we should start having kids on the ground around December 1 (hopefully, we won’t have an arctic blast during kidding as we had this year!).IMG_4377

This year’s crop of does are continuing to grow (especially their ears) and entertain us with theirIMG_4392 antics. You can see Apple’s ear taking off as she and her friends race down the hill to greet Sara (hum, does Sara have treats in her pocket?). Annabeth is the adorable kid playing hide and seek inside the tree and in the next photo, her friend, ShyGirl, is trying to squeeze in with her.

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Snickers and Doodle are continuing to work as a team to round up the kids for us. This is tremendously helpful when we need to catch them for worming, hoof trimming, or any other reason. Check out this very short video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5iR4oBrgWU&feature=youtu.be. Once they have them corralled Snickers patrols the perimeter like a herd dog should, while Doodle prefers to pass out kisses to any goats that are willing. It’s a tough life for dogs and goats at MFF!

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Our strawberry season was shorter than anticipated due to the rains in early June. We were hoping our ever-bearing plants would make a comeback and produce a July crop but sadly it didn’t happen. We still have plenty of berries in the freezer for our spreads so I’m making it as fast as I can! We sell it at the Fluvanna Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, Farmers in the

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Park on Wednesday, and the UVA Market on Thursday. This week we introduced a sampler pack which includes three 4 oz. jars--one of each flavor and it sold out in no time. It’s a great choice if you can’t decide which flavor you like best or as a gift pack (great alternative to a bottle of wine).

In addition to all the traditional uses, we’re discovering lots of new ways to enjoy strawberry spread. Our friend, Mark, served 4th of July ribs cooked with a sauce made from our Strawberry Balsamic spread. I’m trying to get the recipe but Mark’s not a recipe kinda guy -- we’ll see. He also made a chicken marinade by combining Strawberry Vanilla and tomatillo sauce. Daughter Amy created a summer cocktail by combining Strawberry Lavender spread and vodka, then adding sparkling water, and finishing it off with a sprig of mint. Thursday a group of ladies were excited about scones and strawberry spread—a little afternoon tea? And, of course a super simple dessert is topping your favorite ice cream with Strawberry Vanilla spread. If you’ve got a recipe using any of our strawberry spreads, send it to me (with pictures, if possible) and we’ll share it!

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The vines are prospering and look beautiful! It looks like we had minimal damage from the winter this year (those burning hay bales must have helped)! Our new sprayer and spray program are doing great and the irrigation system for Block A and Block B are photo 5operational. As of Friday, all 400 posts for the new vineyard, Block C, are in the ground---good work guys! Next, comes trellis wires and then irrigation to complete Block C.

The beehives are filling up with honey. Both hives now have two supers and the bees are starting to draw out the wax in the upper super. Its really amazing watching them work and seeing the growth of the honeycomb and development of the eggs. Cover crops and crop rotation are an important part of sustainable farming so Rick planted one of the empty berry fields with cover crops, buckwheat and clover, and the bees love it!

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Remember to send us your Strawberry Spread recipes and photos!

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Our critter population has increased by about 600 and things are buzzing at Middle Fork Farm-- we’ve added two honey bee hives.

The hives started as kits with not just some, but all assembly required and no instructions. Even though Langstroth hives are really common, assembling them was not intuitive so, I opted for the 21st century default method–YouTube.  After a couple of videos, I had a plan.

Normally, I’m pretty useless at construction projects but not this time! Bruce put together the P1050736P1050757P1050758P1050761boxes, aka supers, and I (proudly) assembled the frames, where the bees make honey. Each super has 10 frames that hang like folders and can be easily removed when full of honey. Step 1 was to use the claw end of a hammer to remove a portion of the top piece called the wedge cleat—which then gets reapplied later. Next,  I used the staple gun to assemble the frames and checked each one to be sure it was square. I know as far as power tools go, the electric stapler isn’t impressive but for a novice it was still a little challenging as the staples didn’t always go where they were supposed to or as deep as needed to hold the frame together. Due to my skill level  I made slow but steady progress.

The next part was inserting the wax foundation (ultimately where the honey is stored and eggs are laid, see http://galwaybeekeepers.com/bees-wax/ for a good explanation) into the frame. The foundation drops into a groove in the bottom of the frame and then the wedge cleat is set  on the foundation wire and stapled to the top of the frame. This was even slower and more frustrating as the wax is limp and easily punctured. Each super has 10 frames and each hive has two supers, yep, that's 40 frames.

Once this was accomplished we were ready for the bees.   My friend and experienced beekeeper, Marca-Maria and I picked them up in Remington from VA Bee Supply (http://www.virginiabeesupply.com/). When we got back to the farm Bruce was setting up cinder block pads for the hives on Possum Hill (so named because used to Doodle return from there regularly with possums.  One day, she even got 2!  Currently, she seems more interested in collecting cow bones. She’s added another vertebrae since this photo was taken).DoodleBones

Back to beehives…After Bruce leveled the hives on cinder blocks with the opening facing east, we set the slatted rack and bottom board, then the super, the feeder, and finally the cover. The second super will be added once these frames are full of honey.

Until spring comes into full swing, we need to provide the bees with food. Marca-Maria traded out one of our new frames for one of her frames that was full of honey. We also added honey water (1:1 solution) to the top feeder, which despite its simple appearance required another visit to YouTube as well as a phone call to VA Bee Supply.

Finally, we hived the bees--actually Marca-Maria did. First,  wearing bee hood and gloves,  she removed each Queens’ chamber from the carrying container and hung it between two frames in each of the hives.

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Then she released the rest of the bees downward into the hive and replaced the top feeder and cover. We put the case by the entrance to allow the remaining bees access to the hive.

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Two days later, we refilled the honey-water feeder, checked to see if the bees had started drawing out the wax (yes!), and if there was pollen in the bottom board (there was !).

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Most importantly, Marca-Maria opened the hive to see if the queens had left their chambers and, hopefully, taken their nuptial flights. Since we didn’t camp out or have video surveillance we couldn’t be sure about the nuptial flight but both queens were out of their chambers and the hives were full of activity, which was a good indication that the deed had been done and the queens were with children! If you want to see an actual mating, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaJ3K9qRVwo. This segment is from a British film about the global bee crisis called More Than Honey. They say it took 10 days to capture that 36-second flight!

Our last set-up task was a bear fence around the hives. Our good friend, Lois, told us that the Farm is a known black bear route—oh boy! Since Possum Hill doesn’t see a lot of activity except by a certain Australian Shepherd and during haying season, we decided that an electric fence around the hives would be a good investment.  So, with a combination of planning, care, and luck, we’re hoping that it'll be a sweet year!

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