Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Simply Mason Bees


Mason Bees : Gentle and great little pollinators

Honey bees are great pollinators for those with hives near by, for those with out a good honey bee population another great pollinator is the mason bee, in fact I often see them on my fruit trees and flowers more often then my honey bees. This gentle, blue-black metallic bee does not live in hives. It lives in hollow stems, and  holes found in trees or wood. So how do we attract these wonderful pollinators?

Building a mason bee house is as simple as drilling a bunch of holes into a block of wood (make sure the wood is not pressure treated or does not have chemicals added), adding a small piece of metal to the roof to prevent excessive moisture and rotting of the wood. Hole size is 5/16th of an inch and about 3/4 of an inch between holes, I have seen other designs with different size holes and with closer spacing.

An interesting fact is that honey bees are not native to North America they were brought to this country by European settlers. Mason bees are native and do very well in North America. Another interesting fact is that mason bees are more effective pollinators than honey bees, the average mason bee can visit on average 1,000 flowers in a day where a honey bee visits only about 400-500 flowers in a day.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Simply Back Yard Chickens!

Back Yard Chickens :

Growing up I had pet chickens as a kid, they were a lot of fun to watch and we enjoyed the fresh eggs. Back yard chickens have recently taken off in popularity. Recently Darrick and I decided to get some chickens for the fresh eggs. Chicken breeds are plentiful so you can spend a lot of time doing research to find the right one for you. The main choices are between Meat, Eggs, Appearance and Personality.

Care : Providing a home for two chickens does not require a lot of space we have a 5x3x3 foot cage with a  nice size enclosure for them to nest and get out of the weather. Chicken Tractors are another great home for them, they have wheels and are mobile so you can move the coop freely around your yard letting them eat bugs and naturally fertilize your lawn. Make sure they get fresh water and food daily. The food most often used is either a scratch or layer, layer is to provide hens with all the nutrients she needs to lay eggs and scratch is used to help grow and put on weight, another great food source is fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen, Your chickens can been seen of a natural way to compost!

We choose frizzle chickens, for their personality and the eggs, these are medium egg layers with a very calm nature, they love being handled and petted. They are also very cool looking with feathers that curl outward. Our chickens are only 6 months old so the hen is not laying reliably right now, it will take a few more months. Fresh eggs are so much better than the ones you get in a store, they even look different, ours have a more richer orange yolk.

Please share your back yard chicken stories with us today! or if you have any questions let us know.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Simply Herb Water

Refreshing Herb Water

If you are like me plain water can be rather boring, what better way to cool off in the summer with herb water. This is very simple to make just take a few sprigs of your favorite herbs and place them in the bottom of a pitcher add ice and top off with water.

My favorite recipe

Lemon Verbena
Purple Basil

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Simply Beekeeping - Checking the hive and bearding

Checking the Hive and Bearding :

Checking the Hive -We have had the bees for a few months now, and it is very important to check the hive every week to two weeks to make sure the  hive is healthy. What you are looking for to determine if your bees are happy are frames filled with capped brood, larvae, eggs, honey and pollen. You will also want to check and see if you can find the queen, she is fast so if you don't see her every time don't worry, you can look for her next time. If you see the eggs you know she is in there. Healthy larvae will be a nice white color if you see them yellowed it could be the sign of foul brood. The capped brood are bees that are ready to immerge and be part of the hive. When a bee comes out of it's cell, its first job is to clean the cell and preparing it for the queen to lay a new egg and for the process to start over again.

Bearding - When we first saw this outside of our hive, we thought the bees were swarming. Here in Tennessee, we are already having temperatures in the 90's and in order for the hive to keep a constant temperature, the bees will leave the hive and gather around the entrance leaving just the nurse bees to care for the larvae, a few bees to cool the hive and care for the queen. There are a few options you can do to help your bees stay cool in the hot weather, one is to make sure they have a good water source. Bees will use water on the comb and fan it with their wings as a form of cooling. Another option is to use ventilation. You can buy ventilated super frames or do what we did, which is to put a small piece of wood between the outer cover and the inner cover, don't make to large of an opening so small animals don't get in.

I hope you enjoy our posts and feel free to share your beekeeping stories with us!

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