Friday was an eventful day. Not only did we pick up our three sexed Fawn and White Indian Runner ducklings, but we got the call that our package of honeybees was also ready!
First there was some bad news though – one of the first things I always do in the morning is check email and facebook. One of the very first things to pop up on facebook was a story about a horrible accident on the nearby freeway involving a semi tipping over while delivering Belleville Bees. I ordered my bees through Belleville, and I was so sure that this accident was involving the delivery of the package bees! Would I be getting bees at all this year? It was a moment of great disappointment, as I’d been looking forward to having bees again for nearly a year.
It was quickly obvious, though, that these were hives being delivered to pollinate a field. What a horrible, horrible accident. I heard there were 3.7 million honeybees on that semi, and while beekeepers were able to rescue some, many more were either crushed in the accident, or killed on purpose by the firefighters spraying foam.
Our package was fine, though, and was SO MUCH MORE HEALTHY than the package we bought last year, which arrived with a dead queen and more than an inch of dead bees on the bottom of the box. This one had only a few dead bees.
Last time, we got Italians. This time, we were swayed into getting New World Carniolans by a local beekeeper, who thinks they are the best for my area.
Hiving a new package of bees is an exhilarating experience! Even though you are literally touching bees, having them crawl on you, and buzzing all around you, it never feels frightening. It’s just one of the most awesome, incredible feelings! Neither one of us were stung, and even though we were just wearing jackets with veils and rubber dish-washing gloves rather than a full suit, we never felt like we were in danger of being stung. It’s just so, so cool.
Our hive is a Warre hive, and one of the nice things about this particular one (made by Sweet Valley Hives) is the queen release ring system they have. Instead of hanging the queen cage down inside the hive, you just slot it into the side of the hive. In this picture, you can see the bees crawling around this slot, checking things out. The white tab you see is part of the queen cage – it’s the hanging strip.
When it’s time to see if the worker bees have accepted her and freed her from the cage, it’s as simple as pulling the cage out of the side and looking! Today, I did just this – not wearing any protection at all, not even gloves – and the queen has been freed!
The bees have already also made a large section of comb, and today I saw about five bees coming into the hive with pollen. Unlike last year, I think this lot of bees are off to a great start.
I made a quick little video right after we hived the package of bees. The audio isn’t very good, but you can see all the bees flying around us.
After we picked up the bees, we went to Valley Farm Center for the ducklings. They are one of the few places that offer special orders of breeds, and also sexed ducklings.
Sadly, the ducklings must have been exposed to something nasty, because just a couple hours after we brought them home, one of them started having trouble walking and was staggering around. Within another hour, she died in my hand as I was holding her. Mom did some googling, and found out that the symptoms and rapid onset and death matched exactly Duck Viral Hepatitis, which is highly contageous among waterfowl, and has a 90% mortality rate. I called Valley Farm Center, and learned some of the other ducklings that came in with ours were sick/dying. Terrifed we were going to lose all three, I sterilized the brooder box, and everything in it. I don’t know if that did the trick, but it’s now past the 48 hour incubation time for DVH, and the other two ducklings are in perfect health. I think they are going to be ok. Whew.
We named them Millie and Maisie. Maisie (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be a crested Indian Runner. I’m happy about that, because I love crested ducks! You can just see her little topknot in this pic:
They are both so cute. I really think there is nothing on earth more adorable than a duckling!
Look! Here is Millie asleep in my hand!
In garden news, we finally demolished the falling-down, rotting shed in the chicken yard. I should have gotten pictures of its decrepid state, but I forgot. Here’s a picture of the new space I have to work with. I’m still planning what to do, but I think it will involve another grape trellis.
There beyond the make-shift fence, is the bee yard.
I planted some pasture mix beyond the hive, which is starting to green out now. When it’s more mature, I’ll let the chickens in for a short time every few days to get some green forage in them. The trash cans are my container potatoes, the bed at the bottom is seeded with millet for the quail, and there’s comfry, kale, and blackberries as well.
All of the fruiting trees and vines are doing REALLY well. The hardy kiwis are covered in buds, which is so exciting.
The fuzzy kiwi is growing well, but because we only planted it last year, I don’t think we’re going to get fruit. The fuzzy green-and-red leaves are beautiful, though. It still kind of blows my mind that growing kiwi is even possible here in the Pacific NW. It just seems like such a tropical fruit.
Also fun is the “Tiny Tim” tomatoes I have growing in the kitchen window. This is a mini variety that does well in lower light, and only gets about a foot high. We have little green tomatoes already!
Oh, and do you remember when I said we weren’t getting a greenhouse this year? Yeah, I need to stop saying things like that. A while back, I said I’d built my last quail coop…since then, I’ve built another. A little one just for the extra girls. I need to get pictures up for you.
And now, after I said no greenhouse…we’re building one. From a kit, though, not from scratch. Mom found this company called Solexx, and their product sounds perfect for us. The kit is arriving tomorrow, so this weekend, we’ll be putting it together. I have all kinds of little melons and tomatoes started just to put in it!