Browsing Posts published by Nick

Sheffield BeeBuddies are running a couple of taster courses over at The Green estate, Sheffield S2 on Thursday 19th September.beebuddies-posterSMALL

They run from 10.00 – 12.00 then 2.00 – 4.00pm.

These courses are funded by the National Lottery, so they’re entirely FREE OF CHARGE!

You can download a poster HERE

You can print it out and put it somewhere visible.

We hope to see you then!

(Oh, and we’d better just point out that places for these courses are strictly first-come, first-served, and they are extremely limited in numbers!)

AGM Update! Please Read!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we’ve had to postpone the AGM.

We don’t know quite when it will be held yet, but we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s happening.

Thanks for your patience!


The weather last week was uniformly awful.  On Friday in particular, it kept raining, then stopping, but still with heavy-looking clouds above, yet the BBC weather forecast said that on Saturday and Sunday, it would be utterly gorgeous.

“Yeah.  Right!” We thought.

But they were right!

Saturday dawned clear and bright, and there was barely a cloud in the sky.

Quick!  Shorts on!  Get down to The Plots!

So yesterday a day of planting.

Jordan, who’d not been down in a while, came down, so after clearing a bed of leaf mold, we got stuck in, planting cabbages.

Now Sara had planted these some time ago in small trays in the greenhouse.

“How many did you plant?” I asked at the time.Cabbages!

“Errr..  All of them.”

Many, many trays of about five different types!

Still, no worries.  Down here at LEAF, we love cabbages!

To the right here are just some of the trays of them.

Now, with the weather being so ace, and with these getting more than a little pot-bound, they really had to go out, so we all got stuck into clearing the long bed for them to go in.

And when they were all done and dusted, complete with safety-netting to keep the ever-hungry pigeons off, this is what they looked like:-Planted!

The netting is some cheap stuff we bought from a ‘Pound Shop’ last year, and surprisingly, it seems to hold up pretty well.

The white ‘hoops’ we found in a skip a few years ago, but these are actually indoor cable conduits from places like Wickes or B&Q.

I’ve recently been to B&Q, and they’re still only a matter of a few pounds each, and make a great way to keep the pigeons out.

Whacking the ends of the hoops into the ground is no problem either.

We have some long metal rods -the kind used by road workers, so one of these, ably assisted by a few good whacks from ‘Sister Sledge’, and you have a hole deep enough for the end of the hoops.  A quick wiggle with the metal rod to both loosen it and make the hole a slightly larger diameter for the conduit, and the end will go as deep as the hole.


With so many volunteers turning up yesterday, little Mitzi-Moos was in her element.Mitzi-Moos

All these people to feed her and fuss her!

At lunch, cheese was on the menu, and Mitzi loves cheese.  Even though we don’t generally feed her at the table, various volunteers surreptitiously bent down, and happened to have a piece of cheese in their fingers, which Mitzi happened to see and snatch.


The afternoon seemed to blur for me.  I know I was really busy, being called from one job to another, but I can’t for the life of me quite remember what I did.  All I can say is that unlike some sunny days, there was no sitting around drinking tea, enjoying the sunshine.  We didn’t have the time!  With the weather having been so uniformly awful of late, we were well behind getting the site ready and getting stuff planted.

Jon and I agreed that at five o’clock, we’d go into all our beehives and give them a thorough check over.Jordan in my bee suit

When I told Jordan we were going in the hives, he asked to be there when we went in.

Now normally, this wouldn’t be a problem -we have ‘junior’ bee suits for a younger volunteers, however, we’ve lent them all out while early June for another project to use while teaching a ‘starter course’, so unfortunately, Jordan couldn’t come up close.

However, as you can see from this photo to the left here, that didn’t stop him trying on my bee suite for size!

Maybe a little big right now, but give him another ten years, and he may grow into it!

Jon mentioned that the Sheffield Beekeeping Association had had reports of hives already swarming this year, so we were anxious to check ours out for signs of swarming.

As I’ve previously said, swarms don’t pose any threat to the local population whatsoever.  When bees swarm, they are that full of honey and nectar, it’s like you or I just having had two Sunday roasts, one after the other.  They’re that full, they can’t be bothered to sting!

No, the greatest threat with swarming is that you lose half your hive, which puts a serious dent in your honey production for the season!Close-up of a frame

This shot here to the right was expertly taken by Diane, and shows nectar being stored in cells -towards the top of the shot.  You can see it glistening in the bottom of the cells.

It also shows capped stores towards the centre and right of the photo, but also shows new, uncapped brood down towards the bottom left of the shot.  They’re the small white ‘worms’ curled up in the bottom of the cells.

Just above these cells are those of ‘capped’ brood.

In just a few days, these will emerge as the next generation of worker bees.

Jon and I went through all four hives -the ‘nuc’, and the three ‘full’ hives, and thankfully found no queen cells present.

This means that for this week at least, we are safe -they’re not going to swarm just yet!

Anyway, on that note I must leave it for now, unfortunately.

BUT, there’ll be loads more very soon as we prepare for our Open Day / AGM in less than four weeks time.

You can expect many shots of happy volunteers, puddling clay for the oven, and all other manner of fun down at The LEAF Plots!

(Ed: The above is merely what I did yesterday.  With so many volunteers doing so many things, I couldn’t keep track of all they were doing, so I’ve just told you what happened in my vicinity!)


The 2013 AGM!

Sorry to have been a bit quiet of late, but don’t worry.  We’re not going anywhere!

So, I have to announce this year’s AGM!LEAF AGM

It will be held on the 29th of June.

“But that’s a Saturday!’ Someone with a diary shouts.

Yup.  A Saturday.

Okay, so where will the AGM be actually held?

Why, down on our Plots, of course!

But what if the weather is awful and it’s cold?

Ah-ha, Dear Reader.  Miles ahead of you there!

We will be holding our AGM down at the LEAF Plots on Herries Road in the ‘late afternoon*‘.

If it’s cold, then bring a jacket, but if it’s really cold, we now have the top shed with a gas heater in for you to warm your hands by.

We also have space for four of our gazebos to be put up in a square very close to that shed, so if by some miracle the sun is beating mercilessly down, you’ll be able to get some shade.  (Oh, we wish…)


Yes, there’ll be plenty to go round.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be fully refurbishing our clay pizza oven, so you’ll be able to add toppings to your own pizza, then watch it being cooked.

We’re also encouraging volunteers to bring food in from home, in much the same way as we all tend to do on a Saturday, and of course, if you can bring some food with you, then the more the merrier!

More news as things are finalised!

*Note: I said ‘late afternoon’.  Actually, this is a bit of a fib.  We’ll all be there from late morning onwards ‘doin’ our regular thang’, so if you fancy working up an appetite, then come down and join us a little early.  You can also maybe catch a glimpse of my frantic efforts to get a no-doubt wet pizza oven fired up in time!


Early this morning, there was some consternation down by the Plots as one of the beech trees across the road blew over, completely blocking the road to everything but foot traffic.  I’ll bet the bus drivers loved the little diversion through the housing estates.  Or maybe they didn’t.

Still, it meant that for once, it was quiet down the Plots without the constant roar of traffic, and Carol managed to persuade the tree surgeons to drop us off all the wood chippings they’d made in clearing up the mess.  A bit of a shame we couldn’t have some of the wood, but it did look rather big, exceedingly heavy, and apparently, all the wood went to another contractor.

Still, no worries.  We’ll now have plenty of wood chip for the area by the top wooden shed when we put the gazebos up when (if!), it gets warm in a few weeks time.

So for me today, it was all about our bees.

Our head beekeeper, Charles, arrived pretty early and we got suited up ready for action.

Today, we moved one colony from its ‘nuc’ into a full hive.

This was the swarm that Diane so skillfully caught last summer in the cardboard box, and though the colony was not as large as Charles would have liked, it was still large enough to spare two frames for the new arrivals as we moved it into its own brood box.

The centre hive, however, had fared much better over the long winter, so we ‘borrowed’ two frames of larvae and capped brood from this.

This left us with four frames of good, strong bees.

Charles had brought two new nuc boxes with him, and two new queens he’s received in the post the other day.  Surprisingly (…well, to me anyway…), yes, you are allowed to post queens with a few attendant workers, as long as they obviously can’t get out!

These two queens were housed in clear, smallish containers with vents on their sides, and the idea is that you should introduce them gradually to their new workers.

To do this, Charles put two of the full frames plus two ‘blank’ frames into each nuc, then sealed them up so the bees can get a chance to learn their way around their new home.

Oh, and when I say ‘sealed’, I mean he only sealed up the front entry holes. There is plenty of breathing space up through the bottom, so they won’t suffocate!

Then, Jon very carefully placed a queen in each of the new nucs, still her ‘royal box’, suspended right above where the capped brood was, hanging by a matchstick through the top of her box.

By doing this, her pheromones will hopefully mingle with those of the rest of the hive, so when Jon and I come to release the pair of them, probably Monday, there’ll be much less of a chance of the workers rejecting their new queens.

We’ll probably open the front doors at the same time to allow the foragers out to collect pollen and nectar.

So, hopefully by this time in a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to go in the new nucs again, and check that everything is well and that both queens are laying as they should.

We finally finished, and when I checked the time, I was astonished that over an hour had completely flown by.

Anyway, I’m going to have to leave it here for now.  It’s well past my bedtime, and I promise I’ll process the photos in time for Saturday’s entry.

Then again, if I finish off what I have to do early tomorrow, I may well spend an hour going through all the shots that PXI Nick took with my camera today.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave it there, if I may.

Pillow & Duvet calling a very tired Nick!

Thankfully quiet! 17/04/13

But the few of us who turned up certainly got stuck in, and we’ve got loads out of the way so that when the ‘part-timers’ come on Saturday afternoon, they can plant away to their hearts’ content.  Of course, what they never see is all the back-breaking work that goes in beforehand, but who am I to complain?  I can still remember when I first came down to LEAF, and for months, I did none of this hard work.  Payback time, methinks.Nearly done!

Today, Gary and Shaun carried on filling our two new raised beds with soil.  The bottom of these beds has got a load of pretty awful stuff in that certainly isn’t good enough to grow vegetables in, and as you get higher, the soil gets progressively better.

We think that you should feed the soil, rather than just feed the plants.  Okay, if you’re only using, say, a grow bag for a summer to grow tomatoes in, then yes, you should feed the tomatoes as much as you can, but when you’re consciously trying to improve the soil year-on-year, then you feed the soil, and that in turn takes care of the plants in it.

I made a brief survey of the plots after Matt noticed that some git has stolen a load of polycarbonate sheeting we had propped up quite close by the beehives.  Further inspection revealed that we’d also lost a couple of rhubarb crowns too from the entrance.

Well, all we can say is that we hope you treat them well, and that you remember that you stole them from LEAF.  The silly thing is that if someone had actually asked us, we probably would have said ‘Yes!’, anyway.

On my travels, I couldn’t help but notice that all the daffodils on the banking have suddenly decided to come into bloom.Daffodils!  This is pretty amazing, because last Saturday, these were all only budding.  I’d thought they were at least a week away from flowering.

Elsewhere on our Plots, there were signs of Pam and Jon’s handiwork of a few weeks ago when they went mad planting bulbs.

To the right here are some of the crocii that Pam planted after Jon had gone.

These little beauties are at the ends of the beds running down the left of that last photo -near the bushy chives.

A quick close up reveals just how tender and fragile these things really are, and on a less windy day, our bees will love them.Newly-planted crocii

Our friend from further down the site, Gerry, called by today, and on hearing of our losses to thieves, he said he’d keep a watchful eye out for ‘unknowns’ on the site.

Matt also came down briefly before a trip to the doctor’s, but before he left, he was advising Gary and Shaun on all manner of things we should do with the end of the bed that Gary and others ‘unearthed’ a couple of weeks ago.  It all sounds exciting stuff, and I’m sure Gary will surpass himself!

Meanwhile, I was busy finishing off the bed I’d been working at on Saturday.  Yes, I’d ‘roughly’ dug it all over, but it needed neatening up.

And even more dock plants taking out.  I swear they weren’t in the bed when I’d left it on Saturday, but today, here they were.

It’s funny, but I always imagine dock plants to have an Austrian accent, if they could speak.

“There you go, you little swine!” you exclaim as you pull it out, triumphantly.

“I’ll be back!” comes the reply.Cleared bed

And so, here is that bed to the left here.  Almost good enough to sleep on.  Okay, not as finely raked as Diane would have done it, but when you consider it was me that did this, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Lets hope Carol is when she comes on Saturday to plant in it!

Matt and Sara made afternoon tea, so we all briefly adjourned to the shed to discuss the day, but on my way back, I couldn’t help but notice a bed very close to the one I’d just finished.  This had been half-completed by someone a couple of weeks ago, and as I had all the tools down there, I thought I’d give it a quick going over on my return.Lamb's Lettuce.

As you can probably see, it was covered in low-lying weed -this time ‘lamb’s lettuce’.  Apparently, you can eat this stuff, but like the chard (shudder), I really don’t fancy trying it.

So, fortified with the tea, I went back with a kneeler and hand-fork, and went over it to get every last trace of this stuff out.

Yes, it might be edible, and yes, the little blue flowers it grows are quite beautiful, but unless you get it before the flowers start to wilt and the tiny seeds start to blow around, you can guarantee that the following year, you’re going to have lamb’s lettuce everywhere!

A bed of onions up towards the path up to the gate has got this stuff in, and because the onions were planted while this stuff was dormant, no-one knew it was there.  Guess who’ll be on his hands and knees again, ‘micro-weeding’ this stuff out from between young onions?Lamb's lettuce OUT!

Here you can see the bed as I left it tonight.  No lamb’s lettuce, and certainly no dock plants!

This bed, like the others already done, can be planted up very soon.

All too soon it was gone five o’clock, and time for us to pack up and go, but not before we’d had a last look round for left-out tools and other detritus.

On Saturday, I’ll remember to charge the camera and get some shots of Gary and Shaun’s superb work up on the top Plot in the long bed that used to be full of strawberries.  In a few weeks, this will be full to bursting with Gary’s beans, and we really can’t wait for that!

Hopefully more tales from The Plots tomorrow evening!

Adding memory? I forgot. 16/04/13

You’d have thought that with all this learning and fun stuff happening here at Wardian Towers, that as I get further and further into this electronic ‘lark’, first with PIC’s, then I2C, then real time clock counters, then I2C input/output devices, then into iButtons and all the wonders they produce; you’d have thought that it would get easier as time went on.

Scientists do say that the brain is in fact like a giant muscle, and that the more you use it, the easier it gets as it becomes more familiar with cramming it with yet more and more knowledge.

Well, I can report that from this end, it most certainly doesn’t seem to.Before...

But then again, I guess I’m not as young as I used to be, and maybe doing this kind of stuff is really for the twenty-somethings.

But then again, if I was twenty-something again, I’d be either playing on my X-Box, or drooling over a new Porsche, or Armani suit.  BUT, I’ve been there.  Got the T-shirt; read the book.  Boring.  Shallow.


To the right here is the board before I fitted the new memory chip.  The chip itself is a Microchip device called a ’24FC512′.  This denotes it’s from the ’24’ series of serial EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) chips, and it will store up to 512 K bits of information.  Note the ‘bits’ bit.  In more user-friendly language, it will store up to 64 K Bytes of 8-bit words. (As we all know, there are 8 bits to a byte.)

The datasheet tells me that I can have up to four of these little guys sat on the same I2C lines, each individually addressable, so I could have up to 256K bytes of information storage on just four chips.


Hooking the thing up was ridiculously easy, and took a matter of minutes -I just had to remember to wire the SDA (data) and SCL (clock) lines properly.  Mix them up and all kinds of exciting and unexpected stuff would happen....After

There’s also a pin which you can either wire up, or even have sat on another output pin from the PIC.  This pin is the ‘Write Protect’ pin.  With it sat at 5-volts, you can read the contents of the chip, but it won’t let you write, while tying the pin to ground gives you unfettered access to everything.  This is a pretty useful feature, and I may well use it if I get the opportunity.

And here is the chip in circuit.  As I said, ridiculously easy to wire up, and you can barely notice any other new components.  They’re there, though.

And so to programming it.

And this is where all the ‘fun‘ started.

I set up an entirely new project in the X-IDE program I use from Microchip so as not to contaminate the other stuff I’ve written.  Okay, doing it this way may take longer, but it gives you a ‘fresh canvas’ to work on, and it prevents great lumps of code being sat in the program for other functions that you will never use in this.  It also focuses the mind on just what you really need in there to get the program running.

For this program, I needed the new RS232 program I’d written the other day so I could actually see in a box on the screen what the processor was putting into the RAM and also what was coming off the RAM.  Yes, I could have done it with simple LED’s already sat on the board, but that would have been pratty.

After several hours, many cups of tea, and of course, ‘consultation chats’ with young Alfie (…He’s a bit ropy on I2C, but learning fast…), I finally nailed it when I realised that you never use the ‘Acknowledge’ pulse when you’re writing to the device, but when you read from it, you must acknowledge every byte apart from the last one where you send a ‘NotAcknowledge’ pulse.

Oh, and to be on the safe side, you need plenty of ‘IdleI2C()’s thrown around, just for good measure.

Again, last night was another late one, but I can report total success.

I can now write data to this chip, switch the whole thing off, have a cup of tea, switch it all back on, and the data is still exactly as I wrote it.

Today, I have other, much less fun stuff to do, and of course Wednesday and Thursday are ‘Plotting’ days.

But I shall return soon to this project -hopefully before I forget everything I’ve done.

Unlike the RAM I’ve just fitted and programmed, unfortunately, I do forget stuff when switched ‘off’.


The lightest of touches 15/04/13

When I wrote that last piece about the iButtons, yes, I’d got the iButton to display its unique serial number on the PC screen. I did this using an RS232 link to my PC using a free program called PuTTY which emulates the old ‘Hyperterminal’, not found on Windows 7.  This was no mean feat -I’d never programmed a PIC for RS232, so it was new territory all round.

Yes, the PC would display the list of numbers, but the problem was, it would only do it occasionally!Before...

By its very nature, 1-wire communications with the iButton is shaky, even at the best of times, so getting the thing to display the proper numbers consistently was something of a challenge.

In the end, I had to read seemingly thousands of pages of dry-as-a-bone documentation, both from Microchip (the makers of the PIC processor) and from Dallas Semiconductors (the makers of the iButton).

A very long and very boring story later, and very late last night, I finally cracked it.

Initially, the PC would read the correct number maybe only once in thirty button touches.  Now, it’ll do it between eight and nine times out of ten.  Okay, still not ‘production’ quality, and I’m sure I can improve it further, but you’ll agree, it’s a Big Lot better.

Up to the right here is my board.  You’ll remember the ‘flying board’ of the I2C real time clock sat there on its piece of card, attached with gaffer tape. The iButton is the red thing at the side, while the iButton reader is to the left of that, joined by its two wires....and after.

To the left here is the same board, but this is after I’d gently touched the iButton to the reader, and you can see the white LED towards the back of the board, lit to show that the button has been recognised.

I’ve also programmed it such that different iButtons will light different LED’s, while tapping an ‘unknown’ iButton illicts no response whatsoever.

So, we can safely say that this is now a ‘Job Done’.  iButtons are now recognised, and more importantly, different iButtons produce different responses, while ‘new’ iButtons, until programmed in, aren’t recognised at all.The result!

To the right here is a pretty poor picture of what the screen says when a valid iButton is touched to the reader.  Pretty neat, eh?  And yes, the black ear behind the box on the screen is that of my cat, Alfie.

And the next job, Wardo?


That’ll be the I2C non-volatile RAM I mentioned seemingly weeks ago.

With this in circuit, I’ll be able to record, using the RTCC clock for reference, just when an iButton was touched to the system, and it won’t ‘forget’ once the power is turned off.

And after that?

Ah, Dear Reader, therein lies the ‘challenge’.  After that, I plan to design and build a monitoring circuit that will measure -and record- battery usage as the unit is working.  This board will be a ‘hybrid’ board, combining both digital circuits with an analogue ‘front-end’ that will monitor the currents going both into and out of the battery, but it will also ‘time-slice’ this data into usable ‘chunks’ with an integrator.  It is this integrator that has proved most troublesome, but thanks to the excellent ‘Khan Academy‘, a free Internet maths revision site, I think I’ve got it cracked.

Tie this to iButton usage, and I’ll have a permanent record of just who was using the bike, when they were on it, and most importantly, how much juice they put into the battery.

This data could then be used as the basis for the strict rationing of the ever-popular LEAF chocolate biscuits!

No, seriously, this could have a profound effect on how we might approach possible funders, and on what basis we apply for the ever-shrinking pot of public monies.

But to be honest, I’m not thinking quite that far ahead just yet.

One problem at a time, and the current problem is the non-volatile (NV) RAM.

Then I’ll look at the challenge of power monitoring.

All clean, healthy fun.

Phew! 13/04/13

That’s about the only thing I can say about today.

Loads of volunteers -even given the lousy weather, loads of visitors, and surprisingly, given all the visitors, loads was achieved!

I arrived well before ten to get stuff ready, but mainly to get the first pot of tea on.  I’d run out of tea bags at home, so unsurprisingly, I was pretty desperate!

I’d just got our friend Kelly the Kettle merrily brewing, when we had our first couple of visitors -Julie and her brother, Mick.  We stood chatting up by the top gate until Jon arrived and could let them in -my gate key doesn’t work!

Of course, our Honorary Vice ChairCat, Mitzi was soon on hand to welcome the pair of them, and luckily, they both love cats, so little Mitzi was in her element, bless.

New volunteer, Shaun, arrived pretty soon afterwards, and he quickly changed into his boots and sawed up the masses of holly Ian (no relation) and I had feverishly cut down last Sunday.  The larger branches are now just the right size to feed into the pizza oven, while all the smaller stuff has been safely carted down the the fire pit on the Children’s Plot.  We’ll burn this as soon as we can.  Yes, holly looks great, but that’s at Christmas, and those sharp prickles play havoc with wheelbarrow tires!

Julie and Mick stayed for nearly an hour, as more and more volunteers arrived and got on with their tasks for the day, and were pretty impressed as I showed them around.  They’d been past many times in cars or on buses, but never actually seen The Plots ‘up close’, and were particularly impressed with our bees.  This was just as well, because the weather this morning was pretty warm, so there were loads of them out, bringing in nectar and pollen.

As they were leaving, Jon said that he was leaving early this afternoon, and did we want to inspect the hives and possibly feed them?  Obviously, that was a ‘Yes!’

Our two remaining hives looked in pretty good shape.  The centre one had taken all its feed, and on inspecting the small ‘nuc’, we decided to feed that some syrup as well, as per Charles’ instructions.  Charles will be making a couple of visits this week, hopefully with a couple of new queens, and I’ll remember to charge the camera so I can take plenty of shots.  (Like a chimp, I’d forgotten it today.  Sorry!)

Pretty soon, Sara arrived, then it was time for lunch.  I’d been up to the local supermarket on my way over, and had loads of bread and cheese for everyone to share, of course over a couple of cups of tea, and we were discussing what needed planting in the greenhouse. Sara very kindly volunteered for this job, and we now have an entire packet of broccoli, and entire packet of white cabbage, and four trays of Savoy cabbage, all happily planted and watered in.

In a few weeks, if the weather continues to improve, we should have literally hundreds of seedlings in there, so we’ll have to have the beds ready for them all to go in!

Meanwhile, Gary and new volunteer, Shaun, were busy with the long bed by the metal shed I mentioned a few posts ago.  This is very slow work due to all the bindweed and other perennial weed in there, but they made steady progress.

I tackled a bed on the Children’s Plot, as Carol is thinking we should get some of the many pot-bound herbs in there.  We’ll see, but either way, it certainly needed weeding, and I have the nettle stings to prove it.  I also had to fight a load of dock plants with their massive tap roots, but since working on Area 34 last year, this was familiar work to me.

I was only a few minutes into my weeding when our favourite welder, who lives nearby, came down.  He brought his sister and brother-in-law, so I had to show them round, and as his sister and her husband are keen bee-keepers, they were very interested in our bees and the trauma we had a few days ago losing that hive.  They themselves have thirteen hives, but have lost seven of them over winter, so as I previously said, we’ve been pretty lucky this year only losing the one!

Matt popped in today, but he had stuff to do on his own plot, so didn’t spend much time with us.  Gerry, likewise had stuff to do -he didn’t even stop for a cup of tea!

All too soon, it was gone five o’clock, but luckily I’d finished the bed on the Children’s Plot, so we wearily packed up and made for home.  Not before I’d finished the last of the washing up and tidied up the top shed, though.

Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may just pop over to see how things are, but officially, I’m now ‘off-duty’ while next Wednesday.

Well, I say ‘officially’, but in actual fact, I’ll hopefully be seeing Diane on Monday, and any spare time in between, I’ll be working on iButtons and electric bikes.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave you for now, tired, but happy!

(P.S.  The other day I was browsing eBay (as you do), and came across ‘Hive Tools’.  A hive tool is a strip of stainless steel you use to crack open a beehive when you need to inspect.  Hives tend to get clogged with propolis, which is tremendously sticky.  Of course, I ordered one -I still can’t find the ‘official’ LEAF hive tool, so I intend to get mine stamped with at least my initials in it -just so we know whose is whose.  Of course, after getting a hive tool, I’ll need a bee-keeper’s smock.  Then a smoker.  Then a ‘nuc’.  Then my own bees.  It’s only a matter of time…)

Bees and trees. 07/04/13

Again today, it dawned bright and comparatively warm.  Well, I say comparatively warm, it’s certainly at least a couple of degrees down on where we should be for this time of year, but given the recent lousy weather, we’re pretty happy with this.

And most of our bees were happy too, today. The centre hive was very busy, while the ‘nuc’ was pretty active, and watching for a while, I noticed quite a few of the foragers coming back with ‘trousers’ full of bright yellow pollen.  As I’ve previously said, this means that both the queens are in there, and they’re both doing their job -laying the next generation of workers.

As I mentioned earlier, the far hive nearest Gary was as dead as a dead thing.  Yes, there were a few bees about, hanging around the entrance, but they looked dazed and sluggish, and there was certainly no foraging happening.  This means we’ve almost certainly lost the queen in that hive, but by all reports, having two out of the three still alive is pretty good for this year, so we can’t complain.Pear tree with a haircut!

Ian (no relation) texted me this morning, suggesting that we come out to ‘play’ for just a couple of hours, and as I needed to check on the bees anyway, it gave me the perfect excuse to get my ‘fun’ clothes on and trot over there.

As I arrived, Ian had started to get the tea makings out of the top shed, so I quickly got the Kelly Kettle lit for the first cuppa.

Ian today decided that he would finish off his work in the orchard, pruning back all the detritus and bad wood from our fruit trees.  This shot to the right shows one of the two plum trees after its haircut, and we agreed that there is a much better chance of actually getting some plums from this tree this year.

Gary soon arrived to tend to his chickens, then Matt, who’d come down to plant mini-pop sweetcorn.

Ian had brought down some apple strudel that wasn’t eaten yesterday, so we ate that, of course, washed down with copious amounts of tea, then carried on with our jobs for the day.

As Ian was about finishing with the orchard, I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided that the overgrown, and overhanging, holly that scratched you every time you went from our main plot to the orchard just had to be cut back.

Well, Ian and I attacked this with some gusto!Holly cut back

We cut some pretty hefty branches from the main tree, and as you can see from the shot to the left, while we’ve cut it back considerably, there’s still plenty to grow, and in a few months, it’ll still provide food for the bees nearby.

All too soon it was time to go.  Gary had loads to do on his plot, Matt was busy planting the mini-pops, and Ian and I had other stuff to do back at our respective places.

Anyway, there’ll be more fun and frolics from our Plots on Wednesday, so I’ll chat with you then, Dear Reader!

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