Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Veggie Gardening 201 Class Notes

Got a year or two of veggie growing experience under your belt and now looking for a bit more of a challenge?  Come to one of my Vegetable Gardening 201 classes at The Natural Gardener.  These are the class notes, so if you need a hard copy to bring to class with you, copy the individual url to this blog post and go to PrintFriendly.com.

Veggie Gardening 201

Timing:  You already know planting times in Texas are different than the rest of the country.  But did you know you can tweak them even more?  Gambling a bit by planting things even earlier than the calendar says can really pay off.  We do it here at The Natural Gardener occasionally, I do it at home, and many market growers do it regularly.  But remember that sometimes, when there's a HARD frost later in the season or a week of 100+ temps later than you think, it's a complete bust.  

Season Extenders: Things to either warm up or cool down vegetable plants.
Frost Cloth – The one you may have already been using.
Shade Cloth – You may have already been using this as well.
Candle Warmers – Prayer candles in glass, buried partway and lit with a pot over it.
Christmas Lights (incandescent) – C7 or C9 type.
Cold Frames – “Mini greenhouses.”  Usually covered with glass, but sometimes row cover or plastic (sheeting or corrugated plastic panels).
Plastic Sheeting – Be sure to get UV resistant.  
Greenhouses - Traditional greenhouses aren't usually financially viable and certainly not needed

Lettuce and kale will wane and the tomatoes
will mature and take their place.
Interplanting: Planting two or more crops in the same area, close to and among each other.  Sometimes they can grow in the same season compatibly, other times one crop will wane as the other matures.  Some examples…
Sweet potatoes under peppers
Cole crops under tomatoes
Creeping herbs under other things
Strawberries under asparagus
Okra with artichokes    

Crop Rotation: Rotating planting spots around the garden each season so no type of vegetable is planted in the same spot two years in a row. 
To avoid disease buildup and mineral deficiencies over time
Vegetable Families

Cover Cropping: Growing plants for the express purpose of improving the soil.  They can be tilled into the soil when they are a few weeks or months old, or allowed to die and decompose in place naturally.  If tilled in, allow at least two weeks for decomposition before replanting the bed.
Warm season:
Cowpeas – This one’s a legume, so fixes nitrogen. 
Cool season:
Annual Rye
Perennial Rye
Crimson Clover – Another legume.
Australian Winter Pea – Another legume.
Hairy Vetch – Still another legume. 

Record Keeping is an important way of not losing what you've learned.  There are numerous ways to do it.  Pick one that works for you.  Some I've used are:  
Photos saved on your phone or computer in dated folders.
Good old fashioned paper and pen
Blog - combines photos and text, and it's fun!  

Using "cues" in photos: I planted THESE .....   THIS WAY ........................................... in THIS BED.  

Fertilizing and Soil Life
How pH affects nutrient availability.
Desertification - how the summer heat and dryness affects our garden and what to do about it.
Alkalinity and how it affects soil chemistry, making some nutrients unavailable. The average soil pH in our area that I see on customer's soil tests over and over again is 7.8.

Nutrient/Mineral Deficiencies: The most common we encounter are:
Nitrogen - Pale, stunted, yellow plant.  Fertilize with a food with a high first number.
Iron - Yellow leaves with bright green veins. Give Seaweed with iron or Copperas.
Magnesium – Yellow “halo-ed” edges on leaves (width dependent on plant and severity), green centers.
NOTE: If you attempt to correct the deficiency (for instance add Epsom salt for magnesium deficiency) and there is no change after two weeks, you can suspect a different deficiency or other cause as many things look alike.  For instance, these photos all depict iron deficiency:

And this is magnesium deficiency:

And these deficiencies are, from left, potassium, boron, and nitrogen.

Planting by the Phases of the Moon
Waxing (growing) moon: Time to sow and transplant things that grow above ground.
Waning (declining) moon: Time to sow and transplant things that grow below ground.
New moon: "Dark of the moon". Dormant period. Kill pests and weeds, turn soil.

Garden Experiments: You can learn a lot by experimenting with different products, methods, or varieties.  Be sure to do them side-by-side in the same year to evaluate them fairly.  If you simply try something one year and something else the next, there may be variables you don't notice that unfairly affect one or the other.  For instance, if you use one fertilizer in a year that is mild, then another in a year that got extra hot extra early, any negative effects are likely because of the differences in weather and not the fertilizer's fault.
Variety trials - Spend one year using all the extra space in your garden to try growing multiple varieties of the same vegetable.  I've found many of my favorite varieties during "The Year of the Bean" or "The Year of the Squash."  
Different fertilizers
Different watering regimens
Different soil additives such as sulphur or seaweed - use these on one bed, but not another
Mulch or no mulch


Thursday, December 8, 2016

I'm a TV Star!

Check it out!  Basics of Seed Starting.  My friend Colleen Dieter hosts Garden Journeys, a cute little segment on Time-Warner Cable News (being renamed Spectrum Cable News) that airs at 46 minutes past the hour, every hour, on Saturdays.  She asked me if I would be a guest and of course I said yes.

Seed Starting Basics aired already and is online available here.

Seed Saving Basics will be up this coming Saturday.  I'll add a link when it's available online.

I really enjoyed doing this, and it taught me a few things.  Condensing an entire one-hour class into a two-minute spot showed me exactly what is most important.  I may start giving a little two-minute synopsis at the beginning of each class to emphasize the most important takeaways from the entire hour and to let people know what to listen to most.

What fun!  I hope I can do that again.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Seed Starting Basics Class Outline

Seed Starting Basics

The reasons to start seeds are many.
  • To have starts available on YOUR schedule.
  • To have varieties that aren’t available locally.
  • To avoid bringing in pests and diseases.
  • To have big, healthy starts.
  • To save money.
  • To continue the chain of saving seeds.
  • To have the satisfaction of doing it yourself and being self-reliant.
  • For the fun of it.

Types of seeds:
  • Hybrid
  • GMO
  • Open-Pollinated
  • Heirloom

First, gather your tools.  
Must-haves are
  • containers to start the seeds in,
  • "soil" (anything light that doesn’t form a crust on top),
  • small watering can/jug/bottle,
  • misting bottle,
  • labels,
  • marking pencil,
  • mild fertilizer (I like fish emulsion mixed with seaweed, or John’s Recipe, used half strength)
  • and seeds.  
Nice-to-haves are:
  • Lights ~ you can do this in a window IF you have a bright enough one (most aren’t), so lights might be a must-have..  
  • Bottom heat is nice, too, especially for sprouting, but not really imperative if your house is warm enough.
  • A cover for the tray to keep it moist (plastic wrap works great and it's cheap).
  • Timer for the lights.
  • Cold frame outside for hardening off.

A note about lights: Most windows don’t provide enough light. Large, south-facing ones might.  If you start to see legginess (elongated stems between each set of leaves), that’s a sign they’re not getting enough light.  In that case, use cool white flourescents with the most lumens you can find at the hardware store.  Hang the lights an inch above the seedlings’ leaves and raise in small increments as they grow.

Two rules to go by and you’ll do well:
  1. Don’t plant the seeds too deep: deep enough is twice as deep as the seed is big.
  2. Don’t let the seeds dry out: after germination, do let the top of the soil dry out, then let the dryness go progressively deeper as the seedlings get taller.

Planting Procedure:
  1. Fill containers with slightly moistened seed starting mix.
  1. Plan seeds twice as deep as the seed is big. This means some seeds will be practically sitting on top of the seed starting mix with only a light dusting of mix sifted on top of them.
  2. Label them.  Do this immediately after sowing each type of seed or you WILL get them mixed up.
  3. Bottom water until all seed starting mix is wet.  If this doesn’t happen after 24 hours, mist the top of the seed starting mix with your spray bottle until saturated, or use your watering can.
  4. Keep warm and well watered and wait.
  5. When germination has begun, place under lights if they aren’t there already.
  6. Once seedlings have their first set of true leaves, let top of soil dry out, but only the top.  You can begin watering with a half-strength solution of fish emulsion and seaweed once a week.
  7. Raise lights as needed, but only to one inch away from top of seedlings.

  1. If starting seedlings individually: wait until they are WELL rooted in their current pots, then lift the root ball out with a fork and pot up into containers about ¼ bigger than their current container, watering in with seaweed.
  2. If starting seedlings in a communal pot: wait until the seedlings have at least one set of true leaves, lightly grasp by a leaf and lightly pull while pricking under the roots with a pointed object (small fork, tweezers, point of a knife, etc.).  Transplant into an appropriately sized pot (small is better), and water in with half-strength seaweed. When well-rooted, pot up again according to the instructions above for individually grown seedlings.

Until the seedlings are good sized (a few inches tall and a few weeks old), only feed with half-strength fertilizer to avoid burning the seedlings.

Hardening off: Gradually getting the seedlings used to outdoor conditions.  This takes a week or so.
  1. Put outside in morning sun for a couple of hours every day, gradually leaving them out longer each day, until they can stay out all day and night.
  2. If you can’t bring them in and out so often, build a cold frame or use floating row cover - put the seedlings in the cold frame or under the row cover in the morning, then bring them in at night. Over the course of the week, gradually life the row cover or cold frame lid a few inches higher each day until they’re practically uncovered.

~ * ~

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Worming the Garden

Went out to check sproutage today...

Beets're lookin' good.

Garlic, too.

Even the old mustard seeds I didn't think would sprout did.

But what's this?!

And THIS?!?!?!

Oh, you little BASTARDS! You got them ALL!!!

FINE.  I'mma' gonna' get ALL o' YOU!!!!!

Bt.  Bacillus thuringensis.  Kills them ALL!  

BOTH the cabbage looper and cross-striped cabbageworm.  

Some tips for using Bt:

  • Use fresh Bt.  If your bottle is four years old, it's dead.  Bt is alive, a bacteria that's dormant, and it dies over time or if left in prolonged heat.  Speaking of that:
  • Store it at room temp.  If you left your bottle of Bt in the garage through last summer, it may be dead.  Buy another one and this time store it under the kitchen sink.  
  • Mix a fresh batch each time.  When you mix it with water, it "wakes it up" and it dies in about a day and a half.  The worm has to eat it when it's alive, so spray in the evening if you can.  
  • Coat the entire plant.  Pay close attention to the undersides of leaves.  A lot of the time moths will lay their eggs under leaves to protect them from rain.  When they hatch, the worms are so small they don't really move far, so if you don't spray under the leaves where they are, they'll likely survive and you'll have to deal with them later, when they're bigger and can eat more.  
  • Tip for coating underneath leaves: Starting at the bottom of the plant, use a broom or leaf rake to "rake" the leaves upwards and follow it closely with the spray before the leaves fall back down.  
  • One more tip: Some gardeners spray their entire garden once a week with Bt as a preventative.  I don't (obviously), but I may start.  Neem oil would be another good thing to use regularly since it would nip beetles in the bud when they're still tiny. 

Now go get those little bastards.  I did and feel much better for it.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Carrots and Radishes Together Again

I love this time of year.  Late fall, when everything starts to cool off and you can feel winter coming in the air.  Piles of pumpkins arrive at the grocery stores and mums show up at the garden center.

Gardening is so much better this time of year.  One can garden all day without fear of sweating to death.  No threat of said sweating for at least a few more months.  The weeds grow slower, the bugs are fewer, and the garden rebounds from the hellish nightmare of sumer.

And winter veggies!!  I ADORE winter veggies.  Mama was from Jackson, Mississippi, so you know I love me some greens.  Broccoli and cauliflower are sure winners, as are turnips and beets and carrots.  Romaesco, aka Broccoflower, a curious fractally spirally thing that tastes like a cauliflowery broccoli, or broccolish cauliflower.  Hence the name.

As you can see in the first photo above, I plant my radishes with my carrots to get a good stand of each.  Carrot seedlings are weak little things, so meek that even the slightest crust on top of the soil will smother them.  Radishes on the other hand are tough little musclemen, busting up through the toughest soil, crust or no crust.  I guess you'd say carrots are like three-year-olds - cut the crust off, Mom!  Okay, honey.  

They grow well together for another reason - by the time the radishes are harvestable, the carrots are big enough to need thinning, so I pick my radishes and that thins my carrots.  Neat, huh?

What kind of carrots, you ask?  Multicolored ones of course.  There's just something about pulling a purple carrot out of the ground that makes me insanely happy.  You should try them.  Then you can be insanely happy, too.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Canning Hot Peppers The Easy Way ~ AKA Small Batch Canning

Ever wanted to try canning, but didn't have the equipment?  Contrary to popular belief, most people have almost all the equipment in their kitchens already.

"WHAT?!  What do you mean, Linda?"

Let me show you it...

Yep.  Regular old kitchen towels, regular old tongs, regular old 5% vinegar, regular old measuring cups, and regular old pots - one big one for boiling the jars and one little one for boiling the brine.  

The only thing different about this that everyone may not have is the big pot - it's a pasta pot, with a colander insert.

If you don't have one, you can use any big pot as tall as your jars plus an inch and a half, and a collapsible vegetable steamer.  All you need is to keep the jars up off the bottom of the pot so water can circulate below them.  It doesn't have to be too far - half an inch will do.  And it needs to be tall enough so water covers your jars by a good bit - an inch is good - while boiling.  But if you can find a pasta pot, get one.  It's SO MUCH EASIER to do this with one.  Mainly because you can lower the jars into the boiling water with the insert instead of doing it one-by-one with tongs.

The only thing you need to buy are canning jars.  Canning is having a bit of a resurgence lately, so most grocery stores carry them.  I like to use half pint and quarter pint jars since I live alone, but full pint jars will work nicely as well.  They're as big as a can of green beans you buy from the store - a pint is 16 oz. and most canned goods are 15oz. (The RoTel in the photo is 10oz. I didn't have a can of green beans.) - so if those do well for you in feeding your family, so will canned things in pint jars. 

RoTel! And a pint, and a half pint, and a quarter pint.
While you're getting the jars, take a look at the canning tools.  Ball sells a kit that's only about fifteen bucks and has canning tongs (MUCH better than regular ones), a bubbler stick, a magnetic lid "getter", and a canning jar funnel to make it easier to pour stuff in the jars.   

Next, you need a recipe, a tested one.  Canning can easily be dangerous, especially water bath canning if the acidity of whatever you're canning isn't 4.6 acidity or more acidic.  Botulism survives boiling temps and grows in anything less acidic that 4.6pH.  It's odorless, flavorless, and invisible, so don't risk it - use a tested recipe and follow it.

Here's the one I use, from Ball Canning's website FreshPreserving.com, though if I have only a few peppers to do, I halve it (3 cups vinegar, 1 cup water, half as many peppers, SAME GARLIC! Bwahahahaha!).  

Pickled Hot Peppers
Makes 5 pints
2 and 3/4 lbs banana, jalapeno, or serrano peppers, or a combination of these varieties
6 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, crushed

LEAVE peppers whole or cut into 1-inch pieces. Mix peppers together if using multiple varieties.
COMBINE vinegar, water, and garlic in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Discard garlic.
PACK peppers into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add Ball® Pickle Crisp to each jar, if desired.
LADLE hot liquid over peppers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles.
WIPE rim and adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

(Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.)
(Note from Linda: When it says wear gloves, wear gloves.  Or you will find out exactly how often you rub your eyes, pick your nose, or touch your bits.)

So let's do this!  Step by step...

Assemble your stuff.  I have my Ball Blue Book out even though I don't use it often.  You don't need to buy one - all the info is on the FreshPreserving.com website - but it IS handy, especially if, like me, you do a lot of your productivity stuff when the internet's out.  

Boil your jars, lids, and rings to sterilize them.  To keep lime deposits off your jars, throw in a cup of vinegar.  It's not essential, so if you forget it, don't worry, but since it's right there on the counter and the jars look so much better without a white cloud on them...

Make your brine.  This is just vinegar and water and garlic.  Turn it on high and bring it to a boil.

While the brine's heating up, remove your jars to a clean towel.  BE CAREFUL!  If you're not paying attention, some of the water will run down your tongs and burn the shit out of you (just like it did to me right before I took the photo below - yeah, I'm an idiot.).  Don't pour the boiling water out of the big pot.  You're going to need that later.

Pack your jars with peppers.  I did some sliced, some halved, and some whole.  I like sliced ones with a steak, halved ones on sandwiches, and whole ones when eating tacos.  (I am NOT a foodie! Just spoiled.)

Your brine should be boiling by now.  Ladle or pour it into the jars but NOT to the top!  Stop half an inch down.  There's a thick ridge on the outside of the jars just below the threads for the lids.  That's half an inch down from the top, so just fill to that ridge line.  Your peppers will float, but not to worry - they'll eventually sink.  Why leave that space?  It's called "headspace" in canning parlance.  When you boil your jars, the contents will expand, and that space keeps it from expanding so much that it flows out of the jars, contaminating the rims and possibly making a pepper seed or somesuch get in the way of a good seal forming.

Remove air bubbles.  Use a butter knife or that bubbler stick the came in your tool kit to push the peppers around a bit to let the air bubbles escape.  Since I'm doing quarter pint jars, there really aren't that many air bubbles that get trapped, but if I were doing larger jars or more "sticky" stuff like peach preserves, big pockets of air can get trapped halfway down the jar and that takes up space that could be taken up by food.

Wipe the rims with a clean towel and put the lids and rings on BUT ONLY FINGER TIGHT.  Remember how the stuff in the jars expands?  It forces air out and you have to leave the lids just loose enough for that to happen without exploding the jars, but tight enough that the water in the boiling pot doesn't get in.

Load the jars in your pasta pot insert.  This is why a pasta pot with an insert is so handy for this.  If you don't have an insert, you have to lower them down into the pot of boiling water, one by one, carefully.  CAREFULLY.  I don't know about you, but I know about me, and I'd screw that one up in grand fashion.  So I'm glad I have a pasta pot.

Remember that boiling water from sterilizing your jars in the beginning?  That's the same water we're going to water bath can with now.  Handy, huh?  BUT, and THIS IS IMPORTANT - I pour out most of the water before I lower the pasta pot insert into it OR IT WILL OVERFLOW.  I don't pour it down the sink because I'll put most of it back in in a minute.  I just pour it in the brine pot to hold it since that pot's empty now.

Carefully lower the jars into what's left of the boiling water, pour in the reserved boiling water in the brine pot 'til it covers the jars by one inch, or as close to an inch as you can get.

Put the lid on and bring it back to a rolling boil.

After it reaches a full rolling boil, set your timer for ten minutes.

DING!  Take your jars out of the pot, set them on a kitchen towel, and tighten them the rest of the way.  Use a kitchen towel or hot pad to handle them 'cause they're hot!

And listen to the satisfying "PING!" of all the seals setting!  The next day, make sure the little "bubble" or "reverse dent" in the top of each lid is now a DENT.  If any of them are still up and not down, refrigerate those and eat them first.

I did 8 quarter-pints and 1 half-pint last night since that's about as much as my pasta pot will hold.  The rest of the jars are the ones I did in class, including one of orange habaneros.  

This may be a banner year for pickled peppers.  Roger said he's going to leave the peppers in the garden at work 'til frost, so I hope to get more of them - more jalapenos, more habaneros, and maybe even some little spicy bells and Tabascos.  The Tabasco plants are absolutely covered with peppers, so I may even try to find a good tested recipe for Tabasco sauce!  Wouldn't that be awesome?  Why yes, yes it would.  Almost as awesome as the Ghost peppers Casie's giving me. ...  I'd better get the ice cream maker oiled up and ready...


Friday, May 27, 2016

Tim Miller: Water Conservation in the Vegetable Garden

We were lucky to have Tim Miller of Millberg Farm as our free class speaker May 21st at The Natural Gardener.  Tim owns and operates a thriving CSA farm where he grows vegetables and fruits without using aquifer water (hasn't used a drop in over 25 years! Amazing!), and he spoke at length to an attentive crowd on how he does it.

Tim was kind enough to allow me to photograph his handouts and post them online.  Tim is the copyright holder of all information unless otherwise specified.  And click on the images to embiggen.

Trench Composting Benefits and Critical Periods for Irrigation of Vegetable Crops

Benefits of Trench Composting

Trench Composting How To

Critical Periods for Irrigation of Vegetable Crops

Drought Proofing Your Soil

Planting by the Moon Signs & Weather Using Almanacs

Monday, April 18, 2016

I'm Too Sexy for my Beesuit

Too sexy for my beesuit, so sexy it huuuuurts.

Caught a swarm today.  My first one since I was a kid, catching them with my dad.  And MAN, was it fun!

Saturday, a woman posted in the neighborhood group on TimeSuck.com (Facebook) that she had a swarm in her tree above her garden and they flew after her husband when he was mowing the area where her grandkids play, so did anyone know who would come get it?  Well, sure!

Many of y'all reading know we've been having some hellacious storms since then, so I was hesitant.  She said it was twelve or fifteen feet up off the ground.  The thought of knocking the hell out of a branch full of bees with a four-tined hoe and hoping they fell into the bucket I was holding while standing on a ladder that was standing in a truck IN THE RAIN didn't sound that appealing.  I'm a brave Aries, which really means sometimes I'm too stupid to realize things aren't a good idea.  Luckily this time I wasn't so dumb and thought that didn't sound smart, so we waited.

Hey! My diet's working!
Swarms are a fascinating thing.  They're honeybee reproduction.  It's so funny that we call it "the birds and the bees" when their reproduction is really nothing like ours.  When a colony of bees grows too big for the home they're in, they start making a bunch of new queens.  When those queens are nearing hatching time, the old queen takes off with a bunch of the population.  When the first queen hatches, sometimes she takes off with a bunch more of the bees and sometimes she does the thing we've usually heard of - either stings the unhatched queens to death or fights them, again to the death.  Then she makes her mating flight (the only time bee reproduction is even close to our reproduction) and comes back to reign supreme in the current home.

Meanwhile, the old queen and her followers (which is funny - she's the follower - it's the colony that decides all this) fly around looking for a new home.  Sometimes it doesn't take long.  Scouts will have been scoping out new digs since before they even left the old place, so many times they'll fly right to it.  But sometimes they run out of time and have to get out of their old home before they've found a new one, so they all light somewhere, cluster around the queen to protect her, and wait, sending out scouts to look around the neighborhood.

Once the scouts have all found prospective accommodations, they come back and each do a waggle dance for the rest of the group.  They're communicating about what they've found so everyone can decide whether they'll like this new place.  Can you imagine?  Wagging their
butts seven times to the right and twelve times to the left means "It's a 4K bedroom with a POOL!"  Three times to the left, eight to the right, and two back to the left says "But the one I found is in a great neighborhood two blocks from a supermarket (veggie garden)!"  Those are some talented derriers!  And when one of those derriers convinces the rest that they want that pool more than convenient shopping, they all take off to the new place at once, queen in tow.

While all this is happening they're quite gentle really, and don't at all fit the stereotype.  A swarm is just a ball of bees with a queen in the middle, so she's the only thing they have to protect.  Bees are usually only aggressive when guarding something.  A fat hive full of brood (babies) and honey is really something to protect. That's when they're the meanest.  Just protecting one little queen isn't that big of a deal, so they're quite calm about it all, lots calmer than I am when I'M moving.

Being cold and wet makes them calm, too.  I don't know why.  That usually makes me pissed off.  But I'm not a bee.  So today, after watching the early-morning weather forecast and seeing that the big storm headed our way was going to be gone by noon, I texted Terri and we made a plan.  A little after noon, sure enough, the rain quit and the sky cleared so I gathered my gear and took off for Terri's.

My little truck wasn't quite tall enough, so Terri's husband Melvin backed theirs up under the branch.  But I'm short.  Too short.  He already had a stepladder out, so while I was getting my beesuit on, he was kind enough to put it up in the back of his truck.  He put it in the perfect place and it was actually quite stable!  I was so glad of that.  (He helped me so much that this whole thing was an absolute breeze.  He's also responsible for the lovely photos you're seeing here.  Thanks, Melvin!)

The actual collection story is rather boring really.  Not for me, but for you.  I climbed the ladder, held up the bucket, and knocked the hell out of the branch. The cold wet lump of bees fell straight in the bucket and somewhat on me, and that was that.  I set the bucket down in Melvin's truck bed so all the rest could fly in and went to sit on the porch with Terri to wait.

We had a good visit!  I like her.  It's so nice to meet good people.  Melvin joined us and I got to find out that he's pretty cool, too.  We talked about kids and bees and grandkids and organic gardening.  They told me they didn't want to spray the swarm, that they didn't believe in that, but in helping them instead.  Man, I love living in the country where people are smart enough to not scream "KILLER BEESAAAAHHHHHH!" and grab the Raid.  They had an adorable little veggie garden in the back where the bees were, so that was a good part of what we talked about.  I'd go check on the bees every so often, knocking the branch again because some wanted to cluster back up there where the queen's scent still was, then scoop up more and put them in the bucket.  Then back to talk of gardening.

I finally figured I'd gotten the queen for sure when almost all the bees were in the bucket.  I loaded everything up, taped the top on with Melvin's butterfly-covered duct tape, said my thank yous and goodbyes, and off I went, one happy beekeeper.

When I got home, I thought it would be a good idea to give the newbees a frame of eggs and brood just in case the queen was injured in all this - with recently laid eggs, they can make another.  I tore apart the Lilith hive, the one that nailed me last year, and man did that piss them off.  Rain was coming so I didn't have time to light the smoker, plus bees don't fly in the rain so everyone was home.  Yeah.  Big old box full of mean bees.  Oh, joy.  They got angrier and angrier as I opened both boxes and looked through them frame by frame for that perfect one.  They stung me a couple times, but not badly.  I don't blame them really.  Luckily it was on my arthritic wrist.  Bonus!  I couldn't find a frame with eggs I liked, so I just took one full of honey thinking that would make a nice housewarming gift, and closed the mean little bitches back up.

The rest of the story is just me unceremoniously dumping the bucket o' bees into the new hive box with the frame of honey.  I think they liked it.  Even if they don't, they don't have much choice since it's still really stormy and they can't go anywhere.  I hope the forecast for more clouds and rain tomorrow holds true.  The longer they're in that box, the more likely they'll be to stay.  They've been away from a working hive for at least two days now.  Add another one tomorrow and into Wednesday and methinks that's long enough to get them jonesin' for some comb-makin', so they'll just do it.  The drive is strong.  Once they get started on that, they won't want to leave.  I hope.

So thank you, Terri, and thank you, Melvin.  I hope to come down to visit again some day with jars of honey in tow.  Wish me luck!


Next day update: 
They're still in there!  I just checked late this morning and saw a bunch of little faces staring at me when I looked into the top entrance with a flashlight.  So far, so good.

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