Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So Busy, do I have enough time???

I finally tore done the old coop. Like I stated before, it was huge. It would have made a better doll house than a coop. It wasn't meant to move or be placed on uneven ground. The backyard did not supply level sitting. As I've worked in the yard, the apparent slope has become more and more noticeable. This is strange to imagine in a flat Florida backyard. The poor structure was always titling. It finally came to a crash when moving it last. This prompted me to change the coop in the first place. The backyard was a complete mess for weeks. I am not a clean freak, but I do not like things being a mess. I cleaned it all up on Sunday and the additional 4 ft run for the chickens is ready to be placed. I put a coat of polyurethane on the beehive(am currently not a fan of the painted look, yesterday. I put the rest of the plastic sheets on the garden beds and secured it down. This is to solarize it for the month of August. There are so many Root Knot Nematodes in the soil. There was also a fair amount of Fusarium fungi that killed off all the tomatoes. I had to sacrifice quite a few plants, but they were covered in whiteflies anyway. For the Florida folks out there, we understand that little to nothing can withstand the heat, humidity and problems that come with the intense summers. Some may argue that it gets more hot elsewhere, and they may be correct, but add heat with moisture and you have quite the environment for the growth of unwanted fungi and bacteria. Bugs also thrive when plants are ailing. So after yesterdays work, I started to realize that the backyard is almost complete. When I put in the beehive area, which I'd like to have enough room for 3-4 eventually, the entire yard will either be planted or used for traffic. I have the rabbits and chickens, and would like to add quail again. I had a lot of quail previously but I couldn't secure the cages well enough and they were picked off by raccoons and opossums. I have such a small backyard, but have planted so many trees. I am really pleased with how things are turning out. The title to this post refers to having enough time to solarize, finish the beehive area, chicken run, and hanging rabbit cages before I have to go back to work. As a teacher, I get the summers to refuel and to reinvest time in sustainability.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Work in Progress...

I read in a beekeeping book for new beekeepers that it is best to purchase a fully assembled hive. Siting that the construction of a hive is intricate, the author stated that it may take weeks to finish the frames, boards, and boxes for the novice. It really did take me until Thursday to take out the pieces an begin putting all the pieces together. Taking the information read in the book to heart, I figured I would work on the frames and work my way to the boxes over the next couple weeks. Armed with wood glue, nails, hammer, and a square(few others) I started on the first frame. Because I did most of my direction research via YouTube, I felt confident in what I was about to embark upon. I started with one frame just to test the waters, then employed an idea I saw a beekeeper utilize: gluing and assembling frames in rapid succession. By lining up the top bars parallel to one another, the side bars can be glued and the tightened in place. Quickly, the bottom bars can be glued in place. I begin doing 5 and more at a time until 20 had been glued and assembled. Then came the nailing. Each corner took two nails totaling 8 nailed per frame. I had purchased a precision hammer for the endeavor and it worked well. I was hesitant at first to order unassembled frames, since most seem to use a compressor and staple gun. I knew I was at a distinct disadvantage. Regardless, it took me about an hour or so to finish 20 deep size frames. By my calculations, the rest of the assembly project would only take several more hours. I had little experience growing up with tools and I may have hammered my first nail when I was 25. Neither was the mentorship there nor the opportunity. Unfortunately this has led to an extremely embarrassing hammer ability. It is a precise skill to be able to nail with precision, which I am slow to attain. There were plenty of bent nails in the building of the frames. I thought I was getting it down at times, but still made quite a few mistakes. Later that night, I took out the 20 medium sized frames and started again. I finished those within less than an hour. So I picked up the boxes and grabbed my 24" bar clamps. I had ordered 8 off eBay for around $40 for the project. The boxes were difficult to maintain square and it was increasingly frustrating that the boxes' seemed a bit bowed in places. I used a rubber mallet to pressure the finger joints together. With one blow I actually cracked the top of on. That this point, with a cracker side of the box and the joints not coming together flush I began to regret ordering an unassembled hive. I remedied the situation both glue and small frame nails. Looks like crap, but it isn't visible from the front. The clamps also came in handy with pulling in the bowed sides. By the nights end I had nailed and glued everything. The foundation for the frames was difficult to push into the grooves on the frames, but made a technique for both the deeps and mediums. The entire hive is completely assembled in my dining room awaiting sanding and painting. Overall, it was difficult, but it was an enjoyable experience. If you think you can hammer and glue, then I would suggest giving it a try. It totaled about 4 1/2 hours. It is almost time to start keeping some bees!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24, 2012

The summer season is winding down and its almost ready to start preparing for fall planting. Unfortunately, I had to redo a lot of things in the garden namely because of Fusarium wilt. There were entirely too many challenges that arose from a wetter than usual Spring season, which lead to very little harvesting. Despite this, I've redone most of the garden beds by raising and adding wood logs underneath. This is an attempt to try Hugelkulture. I am enthusiastic for the fall, in which I will be utilizing a deep mulching method and capitalizing on the solarization and composting that is taking place now. I hope to get to the building of the beehive later this week, as well. It has proved difficult to even get started this late in the year, as most bee packages are available only in the spring. Regardless I am told by members of Beesource.com that I can start anytime in Florida. I hope they are right, and even more hopeful that there are some mentors out there willing to take me under their wing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BeeHive Arrived!

Just a quick note this morning: the bee boxes I ordered last week arrived. Completely unassembled and begging to be put together. That will have to wait until I finish the coop.

Boxes with Fram and TOols Hive Stand and Frame Bee Box Frames

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today's Venture

Today I am trying to finish the chicken coop. The first one I built was large, expensive and took months to complete. It was a grand master design, but once finished I felt like it was over done. With no prior construction or building experience, other than putting together puzzles, it proved a difficult task.

That was March of '11, and more than a year later, I am more confident in my skills. I've actually completed the majority, just need to add hardware cloth, hinge the doors, and paint. It is going to be quite a set-up. Originally there was a 5 x 3 ft coop, constructed to look like a house. a 12 ft run went off to the right. An additional 5 ft run was added to the left and a wire enclosure was put on the sides of the bottom so that they had a total of a 22 x 3 ft run. Though soundly built, it was an eye sore for me. Of course it was painted and everything matched. There was a method to the set-up, It was just too monstrous for my little urban lot.

With the new coop, I have scrapped the original coop, harvesting the screws, hinges, and wood paneling. I have done away with the side 5 ft run and another miniature 4 foot run connected to a long 8 ft piece made out of 2x3s. The top half of the 8 ft structure has been divided in half horizontally, since it was 4 ft high. Why I made it 4 ft high, I do not know; maybe so I could go inside. With the remaining structure I have put the cup on top of a 4 ft section.

All in all, it looks 100 % better in my mind. The lesson in building the coop for the first time and sequentially adding more and more run capacity through out the year was invaluable. Although it was an expensive endeavor, it took a lot of guts to rip it all down and start over again.

I feel that the there are at least two distinct lessons that have been learned and represented by the above description.

On a side note: I should be receiving my complete Beehive kit by this evening. This is an exciting endeavor that I will write about later!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The right time is today.

As I grab my cup of morning coffee and head out back to see the results of last night's rain and to ponder the challenges I will tackle for the day, I realize that now is the time. This motto is quintessentially a process of endeavor and success. No matter what stands before us, or perhaps if it is simply just an idea, the best time to start is now.

I recall the saying "The best time to plant an Oak tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now." In retrospect, the best time is always when we first have the urge-- to follow our inner instincts and to react in a productive manner that is free of fear, hesitation and inhibition. However, the second best time is now.

This leads to a resurrection of this dialogue with life, regardless if there is an audience. Those who stumble upon these words out of desire, idea, or pure chance, I urge you to start... now. Join a local club, council, or organization. Invest in community and follow your instincts. If local communities are hard to find or non-existent, then join a broader community in the various forums of interest where support can be found. Check out the following: Beesource Forum for Beekeeping and even the highly populated BackYardChickens. Peruse posts, topics, or even join.

One final suggestion is to listen to the many available podcasts on sustainability. My favorite involves a little more but is run by Jack Spirko at TheSurvivalPodcast.

Remember the right time is now... today.