Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Recycling Sainsbury's Mincemeat pot

I have a general nervousness about looking inside the bee hive. I don't think I am nervous of the bees themselves, although as a newbie I naturally feel tentative about going amongst them. My nervousness is more, I think, because I do not want to do them harm rather than being overly worried about being stung although that is always a background thought when I am near them. I so want the bees to survive. I don't know why I do but I just do. It is not about being successful so we can then tell everyone how clever we are to have a hive of bees. It is not about wanting to harvest loads of pots of honey from the bees.

No, my general nervousness about looking inside the bee hive, apart from my lack of experience, is because I am afraid of what I might find: perhaps the queen is making lots of cells (whatever they are supposed to be!), perhaps the colony has become even more diminished in size, perhaps an 'orrid thing has invaded the hive and eaten everyone up, perhaps the queen is dead, perhaps all are dead.

I have been able to put off the internal investigation this past week because the weather has been sunny. I have kept an eye on the hive and seen bees flying to and fro. Not many. Just a few.

I have kept a bowl of sugar water in front of the hive most days, so they can have an extra boost of energy if needed. However the sun tends to dry the sugar water up after a while, so the bees can only access it for a few hours. A better solution was needed. Ahha! In the local supermarket I espied a possible gadget: a budgie feeder!

Worked a treat. However, it is too small really, especially the drinking part. I made a little platform so the bees could have somewhere to sit and drink, but it was not the best solution.

Today the sun is not shining. It is very windy and overcast, so they will not fly today unless the weather stops being inhospitable for them. They will need help with keeping their energies up. They need sugar water. And they need it inside the hive, not outside.

Ah so! Project Hive Feeder!
- Had empty carton of Sainbury's Mincemeat still with attached lid. Made holes in the lid with hot screwdriver.
- Filled pot with water. Put lid on. Inverted pot. Water dripped out quite slowly. Lid stayed on and did not fall off thus making the water leave the pot in a rush.
- Got bowl as need somewhere for the liquid to settle when it has left the pot.

Cereal bowl then! Good idea but realised that the bees would probably have difficulty scrambling up the sides of the bowl, thereby possibly being subjected to 'death by sugar water drowning'.
- A plate then. Flatter. More easily accessible for their little feet. 
- Pot upright. Plate on top. Inverted pot. But.... no liquid could I see. Ah! The lid of the pot had a small rim which had created a vacuum. So raided my bag of jam jar lids, 'borrowed' two, put them on the plate. 

- can't invert pot and plate as I had previously done because of the need to keep the lids on the plate. Not to worry. With swiftness I deftly flipped the pot over. A bit of a splash ensued. But it worked! A little bit of water oozed onto the plate. Perfect! 
- Repeated the process, but with sugar water. The 'splash' bit was messier though, sugar being sticky, especially if twinned with water.
- Syrup not coming out onto plate. Found it hard to ooze itself through holes which were jammed up against jam jar lids. So made more holes in lid of pot and removed one lid. A good drippy flow then ensued.

Now all I have to do is get that kit into the hive. So am now off to don my bee keeping uniform........Be back later on....

Two days later! Yes well, didn't do that too fast did I! But I have now done my task, the feeder is in the hive, and I had a slow look round the bees, couldn't see the queen, but the bees looked busy and well.

And I am glad that we only have a small colony of bees to learn on. If we had been in the UK then we would have had the local bee keeping association to fall back on, but here in France there is no such thing although there are plenty of beekeepers around, none of who we can seem to connect with. So, as with everything here, we are on our own and having to do the best we can and a small colony is easier to learn with rather than a humungously huge quantity of bees.

It was lovely fiddling about with the bees. Took my time. They were calm. Oh a couple of bees did do a buzz around me but were not a problem. The major problem was that my beekeeping hat kept getting in a tangle with the several bramble branches which were hanging down through the branches of the small oak tree beneath which the hive sits. But there were no ants. Cannelle (cinnamon) works!

So now our bees have their own inhouse larder. This should help them when the weather is not do-able for them. And 'thank you' to Eddie and Rita who donated the Sainsbury's Mincemeat pot, fully loaded with mincemeat and carried all the way down here from the UK in their car from the UK just before they closed up their French house and left for Singapore for I don't know how long and neither do they (work commitments for them). With sadness we waived them goodbye. With sadness they left.

But the Sainsbury pot continues on as a reminder of our friendship with them.

Chicken Project: re: Tall Barn broody chickens. Not looking good. The Buff Orpington hen took herself away from the nest never to return and has trundled across to sit beneath the rabbit hutches instead. It does not seem to have entered her head that she should have her eggs with her,  or rather, one egg, the other two having disappeared. Perhaps her inattentiveness to the needs of this solo egg was because I had subjected her botty to a jet of cold water straight from the outside water tap upon seeing that her undercarriage was in quite a dire state. Being very much aware of fly strike, I picked her up, turned her over, and jetted her rump. Perhaps that is why she is going on strike with egg sitting.

So the other broody hen has the egg. However she is only half heartedly sitting on it, preferring to donate all her body warmth to the one egg she is sitting on.

In truth, we are increasingly swinging towards using our so far unused incubator machine.

Pig Project: Max continues to be his grotty self, although is not in quite such a grot as he was when Tess was alive. But to liven his day I have invented games. Like spraying him with the hose pipe, which he pretends to hate but still stands rooted to the spot. Like singing to him in a chant-like fashion: now with this activity he still does grot-posturing and grunting, but his eyes look at me as if to say, "Well I quite like this but don't want you to know that I do!" And today I found a broken branch which had a nobbly bit at one end. I used that to scratch his back and tickle his chin, meanwhile he grotted away at me as usual. Little things, these are what makes him feel part of our team, which he wants to be but pretends not to want to be.

Piglets: Aw bless! They continue to romp around the Sheep Paddock when the sheep are out in the field, and today they toddled around the perimeter of the paddock with me and Boolie, keeping stride with us and generally being part of the team. We are growing in confidence that they can be led out into the farm when we need to rehome them. However, they have a tendency to nudge. Now this is OK when done on thigh, hand or foot, but not in the back of the knee which unfortunately seems to be their most favoured spot. It is surprising how quickly one can become pole-axed when this spot is nudged.

Sheep Project: Doing OK. Still have Bot fly problem, and three of the sheep need more medication to stop the infestation. Next year we will have to find a deterrent to those flies. But the sheep love being in the Home Field, as can be seen by their general cheerful attitude. They also love being in the hedge and are busy making tunnels through the vegetation. The Jacob ram is also looking friskier now. Still small though, but by not so much. To make lambs he might now only need a stepstool rather than a ladder.

So now off to make some bread, then down to the woods to cut a pathway through the vegetation to the river bank. This we need to do so we can get some water for the veg garden, the pond we were using to pump water from now having dried up. It is Midge Heaven down there in the woods, but needs must..... And the good thing is that once one has received a few bites from one particular type of insect one's immune system seems to be able to make a faster response so that the itch-factor is very much reduced. However, there are several different types of biting insects, but one's immune system will win through in the end. I hope.

Saying bye for now.....This seems to have been quite a gabble of a blog, so well done you if you have stayed to the end.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

My immune system does not work here at all though it seemed to in Africa, I don't understand it :-(
You are lucky you have a river to go to, we have nothing here and we just seem to get drier and drier. Amazing what uses Sainsbury's pots and containers can be used for. Hope it works and that you soon have masses of honey. Take care Diane

Vera said...

Hi Diane: One of the requirements Lester made before we came here was that whatever property we bought, that it had to have running water on its boundary, and thank goodness we have that here although the river level is dropping fast due to the farmers all taking water from it. As for the honey - will be at least one, maybe two, years before we will be able to harvest any, but will promise to send you a pot when we do!

John Gray said...

one of your best blogs.informative and pacy!

Jean said...

Gosh what busy people you are, having all that stuff to do and all those creatures to look after.
I'm glad your bees are surviving. But fancy you having time - and the inclination - to make bread after all that! I wish I had your energy and determination, Vera !!

rosaria said...

Oh my, how fun it all is if you are not the one doing all the work. It was fun reading about your work-day, your bee lives, your animals keeping you all so busy.

Horst in Edmonton said...

Great blog Vera, I enjoy your blog emensly.

Vera said...

John: Thanks!

Jean: I am sure that you are just as busy in your own way!

Rosaria: I agree with you about it being fun to read about other people's efforts by reading their blogs!

Horst: Still using your photo efforts as inspiration for my work, and I am glad you enjoyed the blog.

Ken Devine said...

Hi Vera
Your life is jam (honey) packed:) So many projects and so much to do. When I read your blog, my life is put into perspective.

Duta said...

That's a nice, informative post summing up the situation on your farmholding so far.
Well, may God give you the necessary strength and knowledge to go on with it!

Nancy said...

Reading I sense you have a big heart. Learning is life long and it's a joy to be able to raise animals and even bees and make them comfy and happy. Keep googling for info. It is a great source. Have a nice Sunday.

Vera said...

Ken, it does get a bit frantic here sometimes! But then, my life has always been like that, and wouldn't know what to do with myself if my life suddenly quietened down!

Duta, I believe that God is helping us all the way, and I have a strong faith that somehow things will turn out alright .....eventually!

Nancy: I do indeed have a big heart, one that is frequently taken advantage of by others, but I prefer it that way. I will indeed keep Googling, and I hope that you, too, have a lovely and peaceful Sunday.