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Swarm Traps

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A double super version in my back garden.  I’m hoping to increase my colony numbers this year and if all goes well with my current colonies I will split them after the Spring honey comes off in May. However, I’m not totally confident that my over wintered hives are that strong this year as they were under heavy wasp attack last Summer which must have caused quite a few problems and there wasn’t a huge amount of them when I dropped oxalic acid on them to treat for varroa in December.  I will inspect properly at some point soon. We have nice weather forecast but followed by a couple of weeks of cooler weather. I just might wait till after that - Mid April maybe? Presumably, there will be some others who are faring much better which will mean that swarm season won’t be too far away. Some years you hear about swarms in early April! Because of this and the fact that I have a fair bit of spare equipment now (including 8 plywood honey supers that I made in the March 2020 lockdown) I decided t

Signs of Spring and Byng Brook Orchard ID - Part 2

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Signs of Spring keep appearing in and around the orchard. The Blackthorn is beginning to flower along the roads and hedgerows. Underneath on banks and flats appear primroses in clusters, nettles starting to shoot up, grass thickening, cow parsley jumping into life.  It's easy to take nature's unhurried clock for granted but since becoming a beekeeper and an orchardist I continue to realise the importance of just slowing down and observing its signs. I have been regularly hefting the bees to check on their weight and I also occasionally pop the lid just to see how much Autumn fondant still remains.  A beekeeping Spring question is when to remove the fondant and carry out the first inspection.  This will be variable from year to year and place to place but using the signs of nature can help us with these important decisions.  The first one to look for is the Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum). Its bloom will appear in early Spring and historically has been the marker of a beeke

Birch Tapping Across The Universe

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 The aim of today's post is to explain the foraging tradition of Birch tapping and why you might want to do it. Birch Tapping is the process of collecting the rising sap from a Birch tree (Betula).  It can be collected just before the buds break usually over a two week period in mid March.  The process will be explained here and is similar to the process used to tap Maple trees for Maple Syrup production.   The act of harvesting sap from these deciduous trees has been carried out for millenia and the product has been attributed with many health giving properties in a wide range of cultures from Russia to the United States.  Birch Sap has been used to treat gout, lung disease, kidney stones, jaundice, scurvy and cholera to name but a few.    As a child, Silver Birch is usually the first tree that one will learn to identify. In a Winter woodland scene, it will punctuate the complex but sparse scene with its striking pillars of white. The woodland to the passing visitor can be a blank

Byng Brook Orchard ID - part 1

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This week's blog is a summary of what I've learned about some of the plants identified in the orchard so far. Hopefully the first instalment of a few! Firstly, let's discuss how you identify plants that you aren't familiar with or if they are small and haven't yet grown their recognisable flowers/leaves.  The best way, no doubt, is to ask someone that knows.  They will tell you all about it - colloquial names, interesting facts, what it can be used for, is it edible etc.  If you don't have access to a botanical master then you can try books or maybe the internet but I wouldn't rely on an internet search if you are planning on sautéing the plant for dinner.  Another method I have recently discovered is an app called PictureThis.  It seems fairly reliable. You take a photograph and it scans its database to find a match.  It then gives you various details including its common name, latin name, fun facts and even the occasional poem. 

Frugal Orchardism

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 I think Macgyver would enjoy beekeeping.   Wikipedia lists his hobbies as guitar and the art of painting but surely he would have been a master of the mystical art of Frugal Orchardism too. To give you some background information to this post (which has really just been an excuse to research and rewatch one of my favourite childhood tv programmes), Macgyver was an American TV show that used to screen every Saturday when I was growing up. The titular character who sported a lightly gelled mullet was regularly fighting the forces of evil with his trusty Swiss army knife and a paperclip.  He was a master problem solver, engineering elegant solutions from his surroundings.  Helping the downtrodden or vulnerable using his quick mind for problem-solving. Frugal Orchadism is my attempt at solving my orchard/beekeeping based problems without breaking the bank. I am pretty sure this is what Macgyver would do too.   For example, when I took over the piece of land that is now the orchard I was p

Waiting for Spring

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 I'm not an advocate of wishing away one's days.  I believe in making the most of your time.  Living in the moment and enjoying spending time with the people around you.  Trying to cherish every day! Easier said than done I hear you cry - especially now. What with home schooling, national lockdowns, freezing winters and working from home everything can become a bit Groundhog Day-ish.  Every morning the radio doesn't wake me up with Sonny and Cher but I do feel like my toothbrushing routine time comes around very fast.  Maybe I'm getting old... Saying all that, I have been optimistic about my beekeeping.  I have been re reading all of my beekeeping texts, I have been joining in at the beekeeping association zoom talks, I have been making plans for how I will expand my amount of hives and how I will sell all the hundreds of lbs of honey that the bees will make this year (fingers crossed!).  But it wasn't until yesterday that I really knew that they had survived the Wi

Snow, Hefting and St. Valentine

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 This post has been stressing me out... As regular readers will know, I have set myself the New Year's resolution of writing a blog post every week for an entire year.  Last year I succeeded in composting all my food waste for a year so I felt like an NYR master.  I thought if I just use this blog as an orchard diary and type up what I had been doing that week I'd always have something to write about (hopefully this wont get too boring). As I am always going up there I'd always have content...  What I didn't account for is the snowiest, iciest weather in 65 years. No driving to the orchard for Blake and no bird seed for the birds.    Now someone I know from work told me that this cold weather is directly related to the reduction in fumes across the world due to the various covid lockdowns.  If this is true (please can the scientists get in touch and point me in the right direction if it is not) then it shows what a difference a year can make to our environment and how a

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