Friday, 13 February 2009

First sowings of the season, Onions

The seed sowing has finally started as is traditional, with onions. Here you see, about a third of the number we will eventually need. The variety is Hystar which we found to be a strong grower and stores well. For an early crop we grow Ailsa Craig which puts on good growth, has excellent flavour but will not keep past Christmas.Normally Ailsa Craig is sown first but due to supply difficulties we had to go ahead with the main crop first.
The trays are under economy grow lights controlled through a timer which comes on during economy seven hours (12.00am to 7.00am) plus 4 hours to give twelve hours of daylight. This will be extended to over 18 hours of light as the seedlings develop. Many people use heated benches with artificial lighting but we found that the lamps give enough heat to maintain 18c plus so additional heating would be unnecessary.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

New projects for this year

During the winter months we're planning future projects to continue developing the business.

1. The continuation of the mutton project we will be selling at more markets and increasing our flock. As a result of this I have decided to buy and train our own sheepdog, not absolutely necessary with our small flock but it is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

2. Continue to develop the training courses we offer, eventually with accommodation.

3. Bed and Breakfast, this has been part of the plan for a long time but we still need to improve the decoration in the house before we invite paying guests. 10 years to paint the walls since the re-plastering isn't too bad is it.

4. Increase the bees to over 100 colonies (including nucs) this year and develop the market for honey.

5. Finally to provide space for all the above projects we are investigating building a Straw Bale barn on our field, for workshop space and animal housing.

These are all long term projects but we hope to see progress on all of them in the coming 12 months.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Assembling frames

The weather has prevented any meaningful outside activity, so we moved inside on some of the beekeeping woodwork jobs. We normally use one piece plastic frames which require no assembly but may need waxing if they come unwaxed. Last year though our supplier couldn't get the one piece frames so sent wood and plastic (waxed) foundation. About 35 boxes worth, each frame is assembled plastic foundation inserted then mailed together with an air nail gun. What a pain we yu are used to taking them from the packing case and put them straight into supers. 350 frame took two of us about one day to finish, no doubt we would get quicker but I have no intention of finding out.
We took the wooden boxes out of retirement and filled them with the new frames, they are all now stacked and ready for a bumper harvest.

It never ceases to amaze me how much kit it takes to run our small operation of about 80 colonies, mind you in the past couple of years most of these boxes just sat here waiting for a flow which never came. I recon we have about the same number of boxes still in the field.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Latest hive inspections

We examined all our colonies this week, we had 70 all in. After the inspection we are left with 53 viable colonies. Meaning we lost 25% so far this winter, disappointing considering the varroa treatment and pollen both given before the winter last year.

The losses were worst on our mildest site at 400 ', sheltered from the NE winds. One thing that struck us was that from the 9colonies we moved on Dec 16 and subsequently fed have all survived bar one. Our best site for surviving colonies, it is possible that giving liquid stores in the winter enabled the bees to survive better than those relying on crystalised stores.

All colonies had another treatment for Varroa hoping to kill any free living mites before breeding starts in ernest.