Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tales of the Uneggspected ….

As you all know, Blizzard our pure white Silkie announced to the village that she is a he. There are mixed feelings in the village; some don’t mind being wakened at dawn by a cockerel doing his version of Reveille but some really do mind and so reluctantly we had to return Blizzard to Canny Chicken Co at the weekend. I sent Phil with clear instruction to return with a suitable swap. Now you also know he has a thing about growing exotic trees from seed, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised when he arrived back with a handful of cocoa beans in exchange for Blizzard.

Cocoa beans

Cocoa beans

It didn’t go down too well and he was somewhat unimpressed when I threw them into the chicken run in disgust. Our remaining Silkie, Flurry wasn’t interested but our Lavender Pekin, George, was straight in there and gobbled them up. On Sunday, she laid a very strange looking egg.

Eggsample "A"

Eggsample “A”

As you can see it does bear an uncanny resemblance to a cocoa bean so Phil being Phil lovingly potted it and would you believe that today this amazing looking plant has appeared in full fruit.

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In excitement we contacted RHS and they have confirmed it to be a specimen of the Solanum Ovigerum an incredibly rare plant in the UK.

George and her fruit

George and her fruit

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April fool!

 

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New Greyhouse

Our new greenhouse has arrived From The Pot Place. It’s 4 weeks early so the ground work isn’t quite ready to start construction. The manufacturer is Elite and they are based in Bolton, Lancashire. They did offer to build for a fee of £300 but we declined and are doing it ourselves.  The model is the Titan and is super strong to withstand wind and snow and it has tempered safety glass so the dogs will be safe if they run into it and so will I if a stray bee sets me flapping about. These are a great quality product, manufactured to order to accommodate non-standard sizes and are finished in powder coat of whatever colour you choose from the range; ours is roughly 6’x10′ in graphite grey colour which will blend in nicely against the gable of the Annexe.

Our first task is to make sense of the assembly instructions. We have cleared space at the rear of The Buzz Shelter to build it in sections which we can then move to the final location near the beehive. This was deliberate as it will prevent the dogs going near the hive and the hive entrance is pointing away from it, which will divert their flight path away from the greenhouse. The bees are becoming more active as the temperature is rising which will make construction interesting ! We will take you through the laughter and tears over the next few weeks.

Must be Nuts!

Must be Nuts!

And sow to bed

We started sowing in the raised beds this weekend. The shallots, golden beetroot and spring onions are in and the wigwams for the green and purple beans  are in position. The leeks which I sowed in propagators are peeping through already. Timperley Early Rhubarb is well on its way.

Planting underway

Planting underway

The sweet peas however, are nowhere to be seen and it’s now 3 weeks since they were planted. Today I’m sowing red sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli indoors. We are hoping for a glorious display come Armathwaite Open Gardens 27th and 28th June.

In the woods the Snowdrops have finished and the daffodils are in bud. We found clumps of these little beauties while dog walking today.

Dog Toothed Violets

Dog Toothed Violets

Labour of l’oeuf

George laid her first egg yesteday. It was a 3 hour labour and was heralded by much squawking and clucking ….a perfect little egg !

A fine egg-sample

A fine egg-sample

Other news from the Eglu is that Blizzard our white Silkie (see post is he or isn’t she?) announced it to the village this morning …she’s a he.

 

Mr and Mrs

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Mrs Sparrow

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Mr Sparrow

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Our tit box has got new tenants. Last year the wasps got there first and we had a wasp nest to deal with and no birds. These two have been very busy and we spotted them bringing pieces of grass home. I have a square suet cage-feeder just beneath the box and fill it with dog hair after brushing. The birds emptied it very quickly last year and it makes for a very cosy nest.

 

A Sting in the Tale

Honey bees Armathwaite
Honey bees Armathwaite

Friday had been a wonderfully warm and sunny spring day. There was plenty of activity around the beehive so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look inside and put the queen excluder back in-place between the brood box and the super.

Sugar rush
Sugar rush
The winter sugar supplement has obviously been a success and below in the stores of the super we closed-up for winter with about five and a half frames of honey of which two and a half still remain.

Whilst lifting a standard frame in the brood box a section of “wild” drone comb on the bottom of the frame broke off and fell to the bottom of the hive  (see What the Dickens? IX).  This required making some room to get deep into the hive to retrieve it. Drone comb is formed  with larger cells than the worker bee comb that makes up the majority of the hive. The queen lays unfertilised eggs into these larger cells that develop into male bees (drones).

The males it seems aren’t really a great deal of use and just represent extra mouths to feed!

The bees were unimpressed and for my troubles I was stung twice on the knee….. Not too painful at first but slowly building in irritation.

Honey bees

Honey bee

Conclusion

I didn’t manage to spot the queen on this inspection and need to work out a strategy for the eventual removal of all the standard brood frames to prevent the problems caused by the drone comb on the bottom bar.