We harvested our honey for 2022 last week. This was the first year that we had two hives with almost all of the frames completely full!
I find it interesting that bee colonies can have different personalities. One of the hives has been very gentle all summer. They never swarm me or follow me back to the house after I have opened their box up. The other colony though is very aggressive. It always seems like all of them swarm out and try to attack you when the hive is opened! I have been told that the more aggressive colonies tend to survive winter better so I’m hopeful that we will have bees live though the winter again. This was the first year that we had bees live all winter. It was a pleasant surprise when I checked hives in March!
Like usual the kids were a lot of help for awhile when we started collecting the honey. After we finished the first 16 frames though, they lost interest and I got to finish the rest by myself.
Honey or “liquid gold” as Colton calls it, produced by bees right here on our little farm is something that I will forever be grateful for. Bees are amazing creatures. The symmetry and organization they use to build out the honeycomb is fun to study. The health benefits the honey provides to our family are a big plus as well!
We will have a limited amount of honey available for sale to local customers only. Look for it to be listed soon!
All photo credits go to Lane and Colton – my hands were way to sticky to touch a camera!
It has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post. It’s crazy how fast time goes. Life has been busy like normal and we’ve had the usual changes that happen as the seasons go by. I thought an update was long overdue so here it is!
Last summer we had our first litter of livestock guardian puppies. We ended up keeping two of them – Jayde and Maizie. Jayde is an excellent lgd however, Maizie prefers to lay around near the house. Unfortunately, we lost our male and had to buy a new one this summer. Chief is the sweetest, softest puppy ever. He is growing so fast and is just as big as the other dogs even though he’s only 6 months old!
We had our second crop of Finnsheep lambs this spring shortly after our second shearing. Parasites have been a struggle this year so we are working on building a more resilient flock. The differences in hardiness between our hair sheep and Finnsheep are still so interesting. I am very pleased with the quality of our lambs and their fleeces though. It is so hard to be patient for next spring when we finally shear the lambs!
Two of our beehives survived the winter and we will be harvesting the honey soon! The hives have very different personalities. One is calm and quite while the other will swarm and chase you as soon as you open their box! Needless to say, I don’t open their hive without my full bee suit on.
The garden is currently in desperate need of attention, mostly the tomatoes. I am planning to work on that this week. We really enjoyed the salsa I canned last summer so I need to get some done for this year. Both my flower beds and vegetable garden seemed to struggle this year. It seemed to be a combination of weather, bugs, and naughty dogs that kept everything from growing well.
Last spring, Lance and I bought an old building in town that had most recently been a restaurant. We are currently renovating it into a venue and airbnb. I love the building and all of the character and quirks that come with a building built in 1909. It has a room that is perfect for me to use as a studio for our Ranch Store. I have loved having more room to make and store all of our products. Lance and our oldest son, Cody, have done all of the renovations so far. I am always amazed at their knowledge, ability, and work ethic.
Our oldest daughter, Hailey, graduated from high school in May. I am still processing how she is already an adult and not a little girl. She is enjoying college which makes it a little easier that she is no longer living at home full time.
I am still making our Goat Milk Soap and Lotion. We only had one doeling born this year which was really disappointing for Colton. She was named Marshmallow because she is the color of hot chocolate and has a white spot on top of her head like a marshmallow. He is hoping for more girls than boys next year! Colton bought a new buck this year. His goal with a new buck is to improve the quality of his goats and add in some color variety.
The younger three kids and I started our third year of homeschooling in August. After using a few different curriculums the last couple of years, we felt like we had a good idea of what works for us, so we have used the mix and match approach to curriculum this year. I will be sharing more about our homeschool in a later post.
Over the summer, we went to several horse shows. The kids have improved so much in their riding skills. The circuit we do is great for all ages to ride in. Three generations of our family are currently riding. The kids love competing against dad and grandpa!
Since we bought the building we decided to host a fiber festival! The first annual Fiber Flurry will be held November 4-5 at Sikes Venue in Leonardville, KS. There aren’t any other fiber festivals in our area so we are hoping to have a good response. If you live nearish to us, we hope you will come either as a vendor or to check it out!
I think that wraps up the highlights from the year. My plan is to attempt to write more regularly and send out a newsletter one time a month as well. If there is anything you would like to hear about please let me know in the comments!
We had our first honey harvest on September 28th. It was a very exciting afternoon! Lane, Colton, and Kinzie all helped with the extraction and bottling part of the process.
We had expected to have at least 7-8 frames of honey to extract between the two hives based on my hive inspection the week before. However, when we went to collect the frames we found that the hive with the most honey had been completely robbed! There was absolutely nothing left in the frames of the honey supers. Thankfully, my mentor was with us to help and was able to explain what had happened and how to tell. Basically, in the fall stronger hives will rob weaker hives of their honey. This occurs because there isn’t as much for the bees to eat this time of year. When a hive is robbed the robbers come in and eat everything that they can. Luckily, the robber bees had not touched the frames in the big boxes the bees have stored for winter.
We ended up only getting 4 or 5 frames that had honey we could harvest. Most of them were only partially filled and capped so I am very happy with our 4 jars of honey.
Our first honey harvest on 14 Hands Ranch was celebrated at dinner that night with our favorite thing to eat with honey – homemade biscuits!
The rest of the fall I will be feeding sugar syrup to all three bee hives. This will help to ensure that they have enough honey stored up to make it through the winter. The first two hives are going through one quart jar of sugar syrup about every 3 days. The swarm hive is getting their jar refilled every day. They still have a few frames to fill before winter so I am feeding them as much as they can eat.
I have learned so much about beekeeping and bees in general this year. Next spring, I plan to split any of the hives that survive the winter as a more economical way of adding hives. If none of them survive winter, I will have to purchase all new bees. I am hoping to have 8-10 hives within a couple of years. This would hopefully give us enough honey for our family as well as leave some to sell. As with anything, I am sure that I will continue to learn more about bees and beekeeping summer. And next year, I will have someone else come take photos for me when we harvest our honey! I had my good camera in the garage but my fingers were so sticky that I didn’t dare use it!
Last week, we embarked on a new adventure. We bought bees! We have talked about getting bees for years but never took the leap. Well, on Thursday we finally officially started beekeeping! We are starting with two beehives but I can already see how this can easily turn in to several more beehives over the years
A local beekeeper, Nikki, has been keeping a beehive at our house for the last couple of years. This has given us the opportunity to observe the bees and get comfortable with having them around. I called her this past winter with a long list of questions about beekeeping. After patiently answering all of my questions, she graciously offered to mentor me if we bought bees. After visiting about it and weighing out the pros and cons, Lance and I decided that it would be a good fit for us to get bees this year.
Nikki gave me a list of items that we needed to purchase. I was able to get almost everything we needed but I am still waiting on my pants and smoker because they were backordered. We purchased our hives and bee colonies from her since she had extras available. We are using 8 frame Langstrom Hives.
After placing the bees in their new hives, I made a mixture of sugar water to feed them. This will help them to have plenty of food while they are getting their hives started. There isn’t a lot of things blooming yet so this is also a good supplement for them. After they had been in the hives for two days, I opened it up and checked how much sugar water they had left. Surprisingly, they both still had half to three-quarters of a mason jar full. This indicates that the bees have been successful in finding pollen sources.
Currently, there is yellow clover, white clover, dandelions, my strawberries, and some wildflowers blooming. It’s still too early for all of my planted flowers and garden vegetables to be blooming. Adding the bees though is an excellent excuse to plant more flowers than I already have! I have a lot of zinnias, marigolds, and purple coneflower planted as well as other flowers and herbs. For the past few years, I have always tried to plant pollinator friendly flowers and herbs just because we enjoy watching the pollinators.
There is so much to learn about beekeeping and bees in general that I am enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill. I have been reading Storey’s Guide to Beekeeping, joined groups on Facebook, and followed pages on instagram. However, I think that the biggest help will be having someone to mentor me and teach me the craft over the next year or two. I have a feeling though, that just like with any type of livestock or farming, there will always be something new to learn with bees!
We are hoping to have our first honey harvest sometime in July. Our family loves honey so we are all excited to hopefully have some that “our” bees made! Taking photos is one of my hobbies so be prepared for lots of bee and flower photos over the summer!