Monthly Archives: February 2017

Hive scales and snow

So it’s been an interesting season with regards to using a hive scale to monitor the bees this year. We haven’t learned much about the bees, but, we have learned a lot about snowloads. As it turns out, a scale hive is a fantastic way to understand the snowloads on your buildings. When we had the huge dump of snow in February, I was concerned about snowloads and trying to figure out if we needed to shovel some roofs. After some thought, I realized, the scale under the hive can answer that question quite handily. The telescoping cover is about 2.25 square feet, and it the scale showed a weight increase of just over 90lb thru that blizzard, so just under 40lb per square foot of snowload. This was well under the loads required by building code, so I relaxed with respect to shovelling the roof.

It’s Feb 26, records from prior years show we should be well into the spring bloom cycle. Well, maybe not this time, this morning there is another dump of snow sitting on the ground. It’s only about 10cm this time, but it’s a much heavier and wetter snow. The scale shows that there is roughly 11lb of snow sitting on top of the scale hive this morning.

I’m done with this now, I’ve had enough of winter, spring can come any time, we would be quite happy to be rid of this white stuff and see blooms starting, and I’m sure our bees feel the same way about it.

Chicks on the Farm

Chicks on the Farm

Well, it is that time of year again. Chick season. I have been steadily working on our Coucous de Malines stock trying to improve the flock towards better representation of the breed standard.

Of course, the breed standard is in Dutch and I have been working my way through it with the help of my Father-In-Law John Rozema. I am hoping to type it out in English and post on the Malines/Mechels Club of North America breed Facebook page. I have seen some interesting birds being sold as Malines but they do not conform to the breed standard. In this it is definitely buyer be ware!

Early on I had some interesting throwback chicks…and ones that look more like Bielefelders than Malines. While they are definitely purebred, I would never use them for breeding stock.

I will be bringing more stock int he form of hatching eggs from Bulbs of Fire in May to increase my genetics so that will be a great addition to our flock.

For now, I have day old chicks strengthening up in the shower of our guest bedroom and more in the incubators. Happy hatching!

 

Hive sensors, some cause and effect

We had problems with the original broodminder unit set into the hive on the scale last fall, the issue was batteries going dead in a couple of days. The weather turned cold and I stopped trying to deal with that problem, we had reached the time of year where we dont want to open hives anymore, bees have the propolis seals in place for winter and I dont want to break those seals at that time of the year.

Earlier this week we had some nice weather, and on Monday we got out to do the first spring look at the bees. We popped the lids off of all of them, put on the first round of spring supplements, and while we had the lid off of the scale hive, I replaced the temperature and humidity sensor. So far, the replacement seems to be working much better, battery levels are reporting consistently in range of 87%. By Thursday the snow had melted enough I could get the lawn tractor into the back lot, so we took the chance to do a round of oxalic acid vapor to try knock down the mite population before the spring brood starts in earnest.

When we fed the bees, the pollen supplement went directly over the cluster and the temperature sensor right beside the supplement. I watched the graphs for a couple days, and the data looks good this time around, consistent measurements. The Broodminder is set to take a reading hourly, and it is providing temperature updates every 58 minutes like clockwork. The data proved to be very interesting, with definite patterns. The sensor went in on Monday, and thu till Friday we can see that the internal hive temperature is slightly above outside temps, and goes up and down with the ambient temp. On Friday this changed. Through the day on Friday the internal temperature went from around 15c strait up to 30c, which is approaching brood incubation temperatures, and it did not take the big drop overnight like we see on previous nights.

BroodStarting

We normally see brood starting in early February, this winter has been much colder than years gone past, with hives buried in snow last week. But the internal temperature is fairly definitive this morning, the bees have started to incubate brood. The 2017 bee season has begun in Campbell River.

The question to ponder this morning. We put supplement on the bees on Monday, they have started to incubate brood by Friday. Is this a cause and effect relationship, or, is it just the normal time of year for them to start brooding ?

As an aside, the hive weight graphs are a bit skewed right now, but we did learn something interesting in the process. Last week the snow just dumped on us, it just kept on falling. At the peak, scale showed there was almost 80lb of snow sitting on top of a beehive. On the bright side, nature’s snowplow (rain) made it go away as fast as it came. There is a dramatic weight loss on the hive scale on Monday morning, that came about as we swept the remaining snow off the covers when lifting lids to check the bees. It was a nice warm day, the bees were flying, and we saw endless yellow spots on the snow as the bees got out to relieve themselves. That was a sure sign the bee season is about to begin, and the sudden increase in brood nest temperature is a confirmation, bee season has started.

2017 and looking forward

2016 challenged the farm in so many ways. Poor fertility in the chicken breeding stock I had chose,  signficant challenges with the bees, including a case of nosema that wiped out one of our early spring packages and weather issues that frustrated almost every attempt to plant our seed garlic meant that we continually planned and replanned our work.

2016 also showed us some amazing things. First, we achieved farm status for our lovely Rozehaven, something we had wanted since moving here. We are lucky our little plot is in the Agricultural Land Reserve so that aided us some. We credit our success with the variety of things we do on the farm to bring in revenue and support the revenue producing plans. Between garlic, Coucous de Malines chickens, and  all products of the hive (honey, bees, etc) we are fairly diverse in our work. We also over-seeded our property with extra forage crops (mostly Dutch white clover) to ensure bee forage during dearth periods.  Over all our plan has a variety meant to protect us against single crop/stock failure. 2016 proved that we also need to factor in total crop/stock failure potentials.

Garlic Fest in Merville in August 2016 was probably our single biggest AHA moment. The crowds were impressive and the collective growing potential of all the participating farmers was overwhelmed. We all realized that the market for fresh, local, and varied garlic is immense. At Rozehaven, we had planned to plant more seed to ensure we could meet some of the demand but early rains in August that seemlessly made way for snow in December meant that we could only plant in two of our prepared beds and likely will now keep all our garlic for seed in 2017. We shall see.

So 2017 is off with a bang, more snow, pretty heavy rains and lots and lots of planning on our parts. Maybe we are getting to be smarter farmers, but we now have multiple plans for the variety of things we have experienced. Only time will tell if they will be enough.

In the short term, we live in hope and have the support of the farmers and people of our communities to get us through. Here’s to 2017 — may it be a year of learning.

 

2017 and the chick season has begun

I was just re-reading my optimistic post from early 2016 when I was firing up the incubator. Little did I know that last year would stretch every farm muscle we had with tough seasons for chicks, for bees and for garlic.

2017 seems to be getting off to a better start. I already have 20 eggs in the hatcher and so far 7 out of their shells. 4-5 more working on extracting themselves from their eggs — a  process I know is a lot harder than it sounds. It remains to be seen what all of 2017 will bring. We have several off farm events so have had to schedule incubator starts around them. Good thing we are both planners and spend a considerable amount of time laying out our goals for the year ahead early in January.

Coucous de Malines are not a common breed of chicken. There is certainly a biological limit to the genetics we have in Canada but dedicated breeders across the country are working hard to ensure breed standards and health are paramount. Llast year I tried to entice a Belgian breeder to work toward the regulated oversight needed for us to import European eggs, but the task was too onerous at the time. I am going to continue to try so that we can at least bring in some fresh genetics to improve our stock over time.

My list of interested Malines owners is being refreshed (as it is every spring) so if you are interested in chicks, please contact me.

Malines are gentle giants and truly wonderful free rangers. They have a commanding presence in the yard without any fear of aggression. I have had other breeds of chickens and think, of course, that Malines are the perfect choice for the small holder, backyarder, or medium sized producer.