Monday, 24 April 2017

🐝

First my apologies, for some reason the add a photo is not working. Probably due to me!
This morning I checked the hive. 6 of the 10 frames in the super are filled with honey with a seventh frame started. I tried to check the brood box for signs of a new queen but it was so busy I could not lift a frame out. There were signs of a swarm starting but they did a practice run yesterday so I thought it was the same thing. I have never dealt with a swarm before!
A couple of hours later my son in law called me out. The bees had swarmed and were hanging in a cone shape in the holly tree. This was too good to be true! So many people told me that bees always swarm to inaccessible places, never play ball! Mine are within easy reach! I assembled all I needed and suited up. I asked him indoors to suit up too as knew I could not do this alone.
I put some frames from the new hive brood box into the nuc box ready to take the swarm. Then him indoors held the branch while I cut it and we tried to get the bees in the box. Quite a few went in but the majority headed back up to the tree so I knew I had not caught the queen. Second attempt most of the bees went in the box. The queen was in there! I have kept an eye on things and a few bees are buzzing about but most are in the box. They are already working on the foundation wax and I guess the queen is already laying eggs. They seem happy. Once the sun lessens I will check for any stragglers then close the box. My plan is that as it becomes dusk I will move the frames into the brood box of the new hive. Then I will seal the door for the night. In the morning I hope it will be business as usual with two hives!
The original hive is happy, with normal behavior of bees gathering pollen. I would guess that they had already raised a new queen which is why they swarmed.
I cannot believe it was so easy but am grateful it was as this is my first time dealing with a swarm.
As with most things it was nothing like I had read being in fact much easier.
I love bee keeping!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

πŸ“πŸ₯’πŸ†πŸ…πŸŒΆπŸ

Whew! Marathon effort this week! Polytunnel is up and planted and three raised beds have been thoroughly weeded and planted. It is major effort to do the daily watering as I have  to get from the kitchen and carry it to the veg garden. The watering is very important in the early days whilst everything is growing roots and shoots. I have a big greenhouse frame that we found free in England years ago. Some of the glass was broken brining it over and is nigh on impossible to find here. We put down a concrete slab for it to stand on and there is where it has say for years! The plan now is to turn it into a large shed. I will put a potting bench in and store the tools in it needed to care for the veg patch. We need to decide what we will use for the roof and walls. I favor a tin roof but not sure what to use for the walls. I need to do some research. It would be good if we could upcycle something but it needs to be inexpensive if we buy something. It need to be strong enough to take guttering as I want to put a water butt on each corner. This will mean I have access to water on site added to which it is good to collect free rain water! Talking of which we have had nothing for weeks. Just when I most need help with watering the veg
I am keeping a close eye on the bees expecting them to swarm any day. The second hive is ready and waiting. I think this next week one sunny day I will check the current hive again as I think they may need another super putting on. It is possible we could take an early crop of honey.
All the roses I have planted are growing fast! My rambler round the front door already needs tying up! The wisteria across the front of our house is in flower and looks beautiful. The Virginia creeper across the front of the Gites is growing well and the grape vine has lots of tiny grapes!
We put the flea and tick collars on the dogs yesterday. They stay on until autumn. Little Frank had yet another tick which I know hurt when I removed it. Hopefully now with the collars no more will survive. He is small and long haired so picks them up easily and they are difficult to find. I regularly check the outdoor cats too. There are so many different aspects to being self sufficient!
I am working on getting to a cheese making course. It will mean going back to England for it but that is fine. I really want to add this to our make it yourself list but feel I would benefit from a course.  We can source a ready supply of raw cows milk and I still plan to one day have goats. The less I have to buy from the supermarket the better!
As ever lots of plans and ideas.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

In the garden πŸ’£

One of the problems with going organic is weeds! Hence the bomb in my title! I have five raised beds in my potager garden and now have three under control! I am still raking them over daily to remove hidden weeds but feel I am winning. Tomorrow I will dig in the well rotted horse muck I have been given and then the planting can begin.
Today I have planted up my strawberry pot so now have five strawberry plants in situ. They all have some flowers so I was keen to get them out for the bees to do their job. My potatoes and red onions are in and seem to be going well. The blackcurrant cuttings I was given have all taken and have leaves and blossoms already.
I have butternut squash, courgettes, cabbage, cucumbers, peas, runner beans and tomatoes to go out. I hope for good crops this year. For the peas and beans I will make a wire fence that they can climb up. This will be easier to remove in the Autumn and can be reused next year. It is an idea I saw on the internet and have decided to adopt. I will have to stake the tomatoes as they grow to give them support. The squash I plan to put in the tractor tyre planter I have created. This will contain them and enable them to hang over the sides so they will be safe from insects! The courgettes will fill a bed! I use lots of these for chutney and now my daughter lives here have to make enough for two households! Our long term plan is to fit out a barn with shelving and put a chest freezer in. This will become our store.  When all the produce comes in I have so many jars of jams, chutneys and bottled things I cannot get them all in the pantry! The freezer will be good for fruit and veg.
I have today finally sorted out the water butt. It has been leaning! Due to a severe lack of rain it was empty enough for me to move. I have dug out the ground under the stand so it now sits straight! It has been annoying me for a while! I would like to increase the water butts, putting guttering on the chicken barn that feeds into a butt and the same on our shed which is up by the veg patch. It is hard work lugging up water daily.
I have planted my new rambling rose against a barn near the bee hives. I would like it to turn the corner around the hives. Another long term project.
I have treated myself to a new book! I know it is all on the web but I rather like to curl up with a book too. This is the one acre garden. I have the Seymour self sufficiency book that is well thumbed but that deals with a minimum of five acres. I only have one. It is made easier as I will not be needing meat. My birds are not for eating! Maybe one day this will have to change but for now I cannot think of eating them! I want more ideas for becoming self sufficient in fruit and veg! I like to have plans laid out.
It has taken a long time but I now feel like I am winning with my productive garden.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A reason to celebrate 🍸

Youngest daughter had her second son this morning. At home delivered by his dad! Have been for a cuddle and he is very laid back probably due to the relaxed birth. So pleased all is well.
It always seems to work out as one in and one out. Auntie Elsie died in January ,we now have our new grandson. She knew about this baby and was happy to know. Sadly she didn't get to meet him.
New babies bring such joy and a sense of hope in this awful world. My bigger grandson gave me a lovely hug when I told him I love him. I do not want him to feel left out when there is so much attention on his new brother.
It does not seem so long ago that I was having the babies, the time has gone so fast. I can remember trying to imagine a time like this when my babies would be grown up and it seemed so far away then. All of a sudden I am a grandmother!
I am very fortunate to have my girls living close despite the fact I moved to another country. It is a sad time for my eldest as she cannot have babies. Whilst she has accepted the fact it is still painful. It was lovely she was with her sister when the baby came.
I hope I will be around to see my great grandchildren.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

More 🐝 Talk

Had a road trip today to go to a bee shop! Our bee mentor told us about it!
Had a bit of trouble finding it but that was down to how Him indoors programmed the sat nav. Once we found it we logged it as a favourite. We will be going back.
It was fun sorting out what we wanted in French but the young man was very patient and not bothered by us being English! Always helps.
It was just as well I am now very familiar with a bee hive. We have come away with a complete hive! We also stopped on the way home to buy two blocks to stand it on. It is now all set up and I have sprayed the inside with bee charm! I have to repeat this for eight days to try and attract some of my bees to take up residence. Should they decide to swarm the idea is it encourages them to go in the new house. Time will tell.
We have come away with the catalogue so we can browse at our leisure.
We need to build a heat box for melting the wax so that it can be cleaned for use. This shop also hires out honey extraction kits at a sensible daily rate but it is very far away. There is a chance we may buy a cheaper one ourselves.
The long term plan is we will stay with the two hives as that will give us more than enough honey. We want to use it more in cooking and make mead! When we get to swarming season next year if we manage to collect the swarm we will sell it. That money will then be used to buy more bee keeping things.
I really love having my bees! They are fascinating to watch. They are so busy just now with all the fruit blossom. The trees are buzzing! They often land on me when I am working in the garden but do not sting me.
We have a good friend who first got us interested in bees. He has still not started and is envious of how far we have come. He has a house over here too but has not made the move to live here permanently. In England they live in an apartment. Hopefully we can encourage him now.  I would encourage others to keep 🐝

Monday, 10 April 2017

Renewed energy for self sufficiency

Yesterday I had my monthly smallholders meeting. A wonderful talk by a couple we know who are self sufficient in just about everything! Their food bill from supermarkets is very low. They also barter with local farmers for things like wheat.
This has really fired me up! They do have five acres where I only have one but I can do lots more to make my land work! I am almost self sufficient in fruit only buying in bananas and oranges. My plan this year is to be self sufficient in veg! It will mean lots of work preparing the ground because I am determined to stay chemical free.
I will also prepare for taking on two goats. This will give me a supply of milk and cheese. It removes plastic bottles too as milk is the only thing we buy that comes in plastic bottles.
When we first bought this place the plan was to be self sufficient! That has been a bit lost with the Gite business taking the priority. I am moving him indoors away from meat, quietly so he does not notice!
Over the next few months I will plan out what to grow next year and start building up my seed stocks. It is the only way to be sure food is clean. Some of the plug plants bought in have had diseased veg! My window sills are laden with sprouting seeds just now. I very much need the polytunnel so will have to push him indoors to finish it!
Off now to start putting my plan into action!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The new season begins

we have spent the last couple of days scrubbing the Gite to within an inch of its life as the saying goes. First guests of the new season arrive later today and the Gite looks lovely. We made the decision to up our game and now provide miniature toiletries like hotels do. They have a wooden stand that sits on the sink table with a small wrapped soap in a ceramic soap dish. We have also put the paper seal on the toilet to say it has been cleaned. The welcome pack now includes a small pot of jam and a bottle of wine. As this couple have a dog we have put a pot of dog treats in too. We have put together a welcome note to go in the basket that we put the guests names on.
To comply with new government rules we have to ask guests to fill in an extra form giving date and place of birth! This we have to file and keep for six months! It is do with anti terrorism measures. Seems to me this should be gathered at passport control!
Him indoors has just gone to get a baguette for the guests then we are done. All the grass has been cut  and areas tidied up. We try to ensure the first impression is good.
We had another booking for a week in June yesterday so are hopeful things will pick up. Since we moved to flexible dates we have had more bookings. People no longer want to come Saturday to Saturday. Makes it tricky for us to keep tabs but once we have three Gites it will be easier. The aim is to always have at least one Gite occupied.
Heard the first cuckoo this morning so the Swallows should be back soon.
Since we cleared the brambles from our perimeter and discovered a line of trees...they are full of blossom now. I think they are wild cherry. The garden is looking really good. The wisteria is about to bloom and the roses are growing well. The Virginia creeper changes daily and will soon look great.
Things are good just now