We began putting together the hive boxes this weekend. After cumulatively drilling 284 pilot holes in the finger-joints of the box sides (day 1), we began gluing and nailing them together (day 2 & 3). Here is our progress so far:
My Dad and the hive boxes.
I feel better knowing the bees will have comfortable quarters to live in. Even more luxurious quarters are going to be available after I get down to Sarnia to pick up the hives my Opa is constructing.
We have decided to start with white paint for the exterior this year. Every year subsequent to this we will paint new hives a different color, for example, 2017 orange, 2019 blue, to better keep track of which year each box was constructed. That will make judging which boxes need replacing first easier. Next task is to paint them (exterior only).
Knowing everything I’ve been learnt about beekeeping floating so far – the bees’ living needs, nutritional needs, foraging needs, wintering needs, etc. – I thought it best to get a second opinion on the potential hive site we’d found. I invited Graeme Peterson, the founding member of the Ottawa Community Beekeeper’s Association to come assess the spot. He gave me loads of wonderful advise and suggested that atop the bluff was probably too windy, but around the side was an ideal location. Perfect. And I spotted a crabapple tree for foraging but 10 meters away too. They will be happy there, as there will be ample food around – corn that is treated with a bee-safe chemical in the field close-by, clover over yonder, hay in the opposite direction, the apple trees we’ve been planting nearby, a diversely treed forest, ponds a stone’s throw away. Better yet, this spot can practically be driven to by the RTV. Bueno. With that decided upon, the hive assembly begins on Sunday. Thankyou Graeme for your input; it was invaluable to me.
Well true to my word I have been testing out maple recipes. My oh my I have found some that are good … knock-your-socks-off good. I am aiming for the perfect balance of sweetness. So far I’ve found decadent recipes for maple cones, maple fudge, and just last night I made a dynamite recipe for maple pie – not too sweet, perfect consistency, lavish maple flavor.
I find it interesting to note that while bottling, taste-testing each batch (for quality assurance purposes of course) revealed an array of flavor notes (purely sweet, strongly maple, lingering sweetness, etc.). These flavor notes are strongest when the syrup is sampled on its own, or on an ice cream parfait. If you’ve got an idea of a recipe for me to try, please leave me a comment :).
We bought a drill press at Ottawa Fastener and Supply Shop’s ‘April Tools Day’ event on Thursday. The worker who helped us, Bruce, was a wealth of information on buying the right tool to meet our needs, assembly, use, limitations, and care of the piece. He listened to our requirements, helped us decide on the right model, and even helped us save some money too. My hat goes off to him for a job well done.
Yesterday, AJ, myself and my Dad convened in the garage to put it together. It’s a mighty good thing that Bruce gave us such a good tutorial because the instructions that came in the box certainly left much to be desired. Regardless, we got the thing together. Ooohh it’s a beaut! We’ll be able to use it for cleaning buckets, putting together bee-hives and so many other tasks. Picture of drill press in all of it’s glory soon to follow.
Ottawa Tool and Fastener Supply is having a sale and we might be buying a drill press tomorrow! I never thought I would be this excited to get a workshop tool. The hours and days of back-breaking bucket cleaning are over!! ….Hopefully…! Plus, now we have the precision drilling tool needed for putting together the beehives. Excellent.
This has been the longest maple syrup season for us so far. We have nearly finished all of the processed syrup. This past week we’ve had some 14 hour boils and even one 16 hour boil. And now a drum roll please – we were at a total of 294 Litres and Sunday’s finishing pushed us over 300 Litres. What a season! Now it’s time for me to roll up my sleeves and get to work marketing my maple syrup and maple syrup products.
Today is our final, last day of maple syrup production. I feel like I’ve been a broken record about that lately; I’ve said this is our final day for three days now. To elaborate, we can only finish so much syrup at a time in our finishing unit. Then we take that batch of syrup in to be bottled. All in all, it takes roughly 2.5-3 hours for us to finish a batch. We managed to get three done yesterday before calling it quits. We are finding the “bottleneck” in our process is the filtering stage; when it was cold out I could understand how the syrup would cool down too much to flow well through the filter, but we’re finding even in the warmer weather it’s still getting hung up and slowing us down. I will focus on brainstorming improvements in this area for next year.
Getting back to my point, today is our final, last day. Whew!
I am looking outside at a snowstorm. It is April 6 and it is snowstorming outside. Brrr. It has been too cold the past few days for any sap to flow. The forecast for tomorrow is promising for good sap run.
I am torn between feeling elated that I’ll be able to get at least one more boil in before the end of the maple syrup run, and feeling angst about the cold weather’s effect on the health of the bees’ that I am ordering. Talk about a new feeling, being worried about bees. The bees are not even in my possession yet and I am already worried about them. I must remember that the bees I am ordering from my local supplier, Mahmoud at Forestdew Honey (www.forestdewhoney.com), are overwintered in an indoor, climate controlled ‘beedome’ so they will not be subjected to the erratic weather conditions outside. The bees I have ordered are New World Carniolians. While half of the colonies I am getting will have imported queens, the other half will have Ontario queens. (My reasoning behind this: why not?) I will take note of which are which and make observations on whether the colonies featuring imported or domestic queens perform better. Courtesy of my Opa, the beeyard will host several homemade hives, as pictured below. What a craftsman he is. The bees will be ready for pick-up in late May. In the meantime I have more beehives to assemble and a bee yard to prepare for their arrival. That, I believe will keep me busy as a bee until they arrive.
I thought we were nearing the end of our season here in Eastern Ontario. However, upon checking the ever-changing weather forecast it appears to be lasting at least one more week. Everything in my life has been revolving around maple syrup for the past month. From checking the weather forecast about 5 times a day to even muttering in my sleep about the float level of the evaporator, this is an all-consuming hobby of mine.