Thursday, 25 September 2008

Treating for Varroa

This week on Wednesday I worked all my colonies checking stores and treating Varroa, number two out of the three required treatments. The sun was out and bees were bringing in basket loads of pollen. These particular bees are working a field of Mustard next door.I am seeing a lot of drones in colonies this year which at this time of year may mean queenless colonies. I have checked all those with drones and with only one or two exceptions they are all queenright with plenty of brood. Maybe they know we are in for an indian summer and they have an opportunity to spread their genes around a little more.
There was one colony with hatched queen cells, I would usually unite these with a queenright colony but I have left them to see if they can produce a laying queen.
Last week I gave all colonies a pound of pollen substitute to improve the quality of winter bees. On checking I see that all have taken the feed with the exception of this colony who have just a little left to clear up. For future reference its useful to know that it takes the average colony about a week to consume a pound pollen patty.

Most of the colonies look like this and have cleared all the patty.

Winter lettuce germinated

The third batch of winter lettuce has just germinated under lights in the growing room. The first batch and second batches have been planted in the tunnel are established and starting to grow away.
The germination is reasonably even under the lights although these will go in the tunnel next week to grow on.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Chicks at Nine weeks

We've moved the chicks into a full sized ark with a small run at the moment to get them used to moving in and out without being bothered by the older birds. They are 9 weeks old now and could survive happily without their foster mums. But until we release them to range they will stay with the chicks. After they have access to range some mums stay with the chicks all the time and some leave straight away and move into another ark.

Having older birds and chicks together can give rise to bullying by the older birds but we have found that the cockerels will step in and stop any hen pecking. You can see here the adult hen next to the 9 week old chicks. They are developing well and are on course to start laying at around 26 weeks.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Checking sheep before putting to the ram

We are checking the ewes before the ram goes in, a couple looked thin, possibly due to age (poor teeth) or perhaps in need of worming. These two will be taken out and fattened up before going to the butchers. The rest looked in good nick and should have no trouble getting in lamb.
Here he is our ram, a pedigree Lleyn tup Roddy he is getting on a bit now, this will be his last year with the girls. He'll be retired, he was our first ram and will no doubt be kept as a pet.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Treating for varroa and feeding pollen patties

The cold summer this year has caused two problems one is a general lack of pollen the other is difficulty of using Thymol for Varroa control,

We addressed the lack of pollen by feeding pollen substitute patties, improving the protein intake of the bees. The hope is that this will produce good quality winter bees with plenty of fat bodies, fat bees winter better.

The pollen patty is 10% natural pollen the rest made up of high protein materials such as brewers yeast and soya flour. each colony was given about 1lb each placed on the frame tops and pushed between the frames. I would anticipate that they should be eaten in about a week.

The other problem with the cool weather is that the thymol we use for varroa control needs warm temperatures to work properly so these cool days are not ideal for thymol use. So this year we are using an Austrian control called Hive Clean it's applied between the frames directly onto the bees

Monday, 15 September 2008

First Masterclass

Our first Masterclass was held yesterday (sunday), there was the full compliment of twelve participants we covered the basics of poultry keeping including housing handling the birds, feeding and collecting and grading eggs.
We covered bees in the afternoon and where able to look at the principles of beekeeping and well as spending time handling the bees, finding queens, spotting eggs and assessing the state of development of a colony.
Some of the group are here relaxing after visiting the bees.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Green Manure growing well

This is the green manure crop I sowed on the fourth of August. It has grown well and should winter well and provide good levels of fertility for next years Alliums.From the image below you can see the make up of the green manure, there is Colts Foot Grass for green bulk, chicory for deep roots and clover red and white for nitrogen fixing. This mix worked well this year except that the chicory re-grew. Next year we will have to cultivate more than once to incorporate better.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Late night chicken move

We have to move the hens housing regularly to comply with organic standards and to prevent disease and parasite build up. The houses are moved at night when the hens are roosting and will (hopefully) orientate to their new position when they are let out in the morning.

First check hens are roosting..

Next we place our efficient killing machine to catch any rodents hiding out under the house

"I'm too old for this game"

"What time is tea?"

Then we pull the ark with tractor, all the hens are inside holding on to their perches

Last of all we move the lighter extension to the laying ark which gives shelter for the birds in inclement weather and complies with the organic standards for housing space per bird. Because it is much lighter than the main ark we can move this on the rear forks on the tractor.

The Houses in their positions on new grazing for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Onions Safely In

The onions are mostly dried off now the tops have withered they are ready for stacking in the tunnel for final dryingIn a "normal" year we would have left them outside to dry in the sun. This year however there is no prospect of any sun lasting more than a day without rain undoing the ripening process. So you see John collecting onions and stacking in potato chitting trays to be stacked in the tunnel.

The Red Onions are taking longer to dry, but due to the weather we have picked them green to dry under polythene.