Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rinconada Dairy

Rinconada Dairy is an incredible sheep ranch located in Santa Margarita, CA. The sheep and goats are happy, the cheese is delicious, and the owners, Jim and Christine are great assets to our community. Glenn and I were lucky enough to live on this ranch for the first year of Oliver’s life. We became interested in growing our own food, raising chickens for eggs, and eating organically while living on the ranch. It is baby season so Oliver, Grammy and I headed out to pet some lambs and kids.

The Kids.

These lambs loved Oliver.

Oli, Gammy, Olive Trees and Daffodils

I just really like this picture and it shows off his cool hat made by an etsy artist!

Ahh, nursing, what could be more beautiful?

If you visit California, this is the perfect place to stay if you love animals and good food.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bee Inspection

Last week I called the beekeeper from whom I purchased the hive. He told me that the bees were about to swarm. With the cold nights and the large vacant space in the brood box, the queen was unhappy with her living space. So I went back into the hive the next day with the intentions of removing the new queen cells so the old queen would not leave. To my surprise one of the queens had emerged and was moving around somewhere.

With my inexperience I went looking for the new queen (looks like a larger worker bee but is smaller than a mated queen) but was unsuccessful. I was able to find the old queen hanging out by the side of the hive waiting for the weather to be right so she could swarm. Not knowing what to do, I took the old queen and her followers and put her in another brood box. I added one of the full brood frames from the original hive hoping the new queen was not on that frame. I then put another feeder tray on the top of the new box and sealed it up with grass shoved into the reducer holes.

Two weeks later I opened both hives to see how things were going. In the new hive all looks calm and productive. There are very few, because I was unable to put that many worker bees with the old queen, and I figured she would be able to produce more brood to increase their numbers.

The second hive was a different story. When pulling the frames the first thing I noticed was the four new queen cells that had been produced in the past two weeks (see image below cells are circled in red). They were not on the bottom of the frame as before, because this time there was no laying queen. The cells were in the middle of the two frames on both left and right sides.

Did the new queen die? Were these cells created to make sure that they have a queen if the new queen dies while mating? Was killing the queen brood the right thing to do in this case? I will have to get back to you on these questions. My plan is to observe the hive in the next couple of days and if I see stress from the old hive I will rejoin the two hives. It is looking very much like spring here so I am confident that they will be able to overcome these issues with the increase in temp and food sources.

Lessons Learned from Nature

Here is what Oliver learned today in his own words.

“Salamanders don’t eat chicken, people do.”

“Onions grow from onion seeds.”

“Baby fish don’t nurse because Mommy fish don’t have nursies.”

“I cracked the egg and it got on my pants and now we can’t eat it for dinner.”

“Carlos tackled your feet and Daddy grabbed him.”

Glenn will be back later tonight to blog about his inspection today. ~Jess

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eagle Alley

Three miles from our house is a place my mom named “Eagle Alley.” Collectively we have spotted several eagles in the trees next to the road and flying over our cars. The animal expert in our family thinks it may be a family of Bald Eagles. We have seen adult Bald Eagles and brown eagles which resemble juvenile Bald Eagles. Yesterday, on my drive to Farmer’s Market in Templeton, I observed one eagle in a tree next to the road. Later, on the way home, I saw two in the same tree. I drove home, grabbed my camera and set out to finally get a photograph of the eagles.

I parked down the road from the tree and walked to my destination. I only feared for my life once when a burly man in a pick up truck stopped to say, “Hey honey, you need some help?” I’m good, thanks. Country folks are quicker to help than average I've noticed. When I reached the tree, I was disappointed to find it empty. I watched the ground below crawl with small rodents and birds and I realized why the eagles have made this area their home. After waiting for 15 minutes, I started my walk back to the car. Just beyond my car were two eagles, doing an amazing dance in the sky. I ran back toward the eagles, frantically snapping pictures I knew would show nothing.

Here are the two actual eagle shots I got. Not great, but the show they put on was worth my time. Can you see it perched in the tree?

As an added bonus, right before I reached home, I almost drove into this rafter of turkeys. The male has such beautiful coloring. ~Jess

Monday, February 16, 2009

Second Full Inspection

We opened up the bee hive yesterday to look to see how our airport bees have progressed. I first noticed that the top feeder was close to being empty. The remaining sugar water had turned to a thick sugar mixture with little water remaining. The greasy patty was 90% consumed so I will need to put another patty on top of the brood frames.

When removing the frames there had not been a visible increase in spaced used by the colony, still only about four frames front and back. I removed the first two outer frames from the left side, both were empty. The next frame in was started with honey storage on the top section of the frame. I pulled out the next three frames to find them packed with bees and a full structure of comb. The brood size was less than expected.

If you look closely on the picture below you can see white larve within the open cells in the center of the comb.

This is were my inexperience makes explanations murky. We were unable to find the queen within the main frames. What we did find was three queen brood cells, which have me concerned. Could this be a Supersedure!? For people who don't know what that is: "Supersedure- a natural or emergency replacement of an established queen by a daughter in the same hive." Should I be worried-it is mid February and my hive may not have a queen? Are there drone bees present all year round or only in the summer months? Below is a blown up picture of a queen cell.

If anyone has seen these patterns before and can make some sense of it for me, I would appreciate it.
~ Glenn

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Chicken Experiment

Carlos, our rooster, is a Plymouth Rock. Carlos has his share of good and bad traits. He has left me with large bruises down my legs, has knocked Oliver down on several occasions and drives the hens crazy (at least I think) with his high drive. See the photo below. He is mating with his most willing participant, Llewelyn, another Plymouth Rock. On the other hand, Carlos takes good care of the hens. We once found him across the street at the Fire Station after a fox broke into the hen house. We lost Rusty (our sweet rooster) to the fox, but all of the hens were safe. We believe Carlos and Rusty went out to lure the fox away from the hens.

This is one of our hens, Goldilocks. Goldilocks is an Ameraucana, a breed that lays blue/green eggs.

We decided to let one of our hens, Etta have a few chicks because she was so broody. Etta sat on Goldilocks's eggs to see what a half Plymouth Rock, half Ameraucana offspring would look like. Here is a picture of Carlos, Goldilocks, and Etta's child. We are looking forward to seeing what color eggs come from this chicken (brownish green?). Glenn will be back tomorrow to blog about his hive inspection. ~Jess

Friday, February 13, 2009


Another cold day and the bees were not very active. We plan on opening up the hive at some point this weekend (for another inspection), if the weather gets warm enough. I had fun photographing all of the beautiful fungi that seem to have arrived with the rain.

Monday, February 9, 2009

SNOW in Santa Margarita, CA! One day a beautiful nature hike, the next a winter wonderland.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Nature Hike with Oliver

The weather today was relatively cold and the bees were inside keeping the hive warm. Oliver and I decided to take a hike to photograph nature behind our house.
I was ready to head back after we had seen some cool birds and dissected fox scat. Oliver pushed on, climbing over rocks to discover more animals. To my surprise, as we went farther into the wilderness, I could hear the familiar buzzing of our bees. A magnificent Manzanita was humming with our honey bees and a couple of hummingbirds.
It was a perfect moment made possible by my adventurous hiker, Oliver. If you look closely at this picture you can see one of the bees. I eventually had to coax Oliver home with the promise of hot goat’s milk chocolate.