J&N Homestead

Our Urban Homesteading Story

Month: February 2016

Roughing up the hives…

I’m a big fan of David Burns who is a certified master beekeeper and runs Long Lane Honeybee Farms and the nice online store www.honeybeesonline.com. He also has a really good YouTube channel where he posts all kinds of beekeeping videos, one of which struck me as odd. In this video post, he suggest roughing up the inside of your boxes to mimic the texture the bees would normally find in the wild inside trees and other potential places they may call home. The idea is that they will cover the inside walls more vigorously with propolis which helps act as an extension of their immune system. Clearly science and beekeeping have come a long way on the subject of propolis and there does appear to be some good science around the subject and it’s not like it will hurt anything. Since I have the two new hive boxes built and ready for spring, I figured I’d experiment and rough up the insides of one and see what the differences would be between the two with one roughed up and the other not. I’ll come back and update this post with my findings in a few months.

Below I’ve got some before and after shots of the inside walls of one of the supers I’ve roughed up. David Burns says he as some sort of proprietary tool which he uses for the purpose of roughing up the interior walls of the boxes, unlike David, I’ll share my super secret tool, it’s a 5″ hole saw from lowes, but honestly, you should just use whatever tools you have laying around.

Inside wall before getting roughed up.

Inside wall before getting roughed up.

Inside wall after being roughed up with a hole saw.

Inside wall after being roughed up with a hole saw.

My "open source" non-proprietary hive roughing up tool. I'm looking at you David Burns.

My “open source” non-proprietary hive roughing up tool. I’m looking at you David Burns.

Building the beehives for the homestead…

IMG_20160205_185230737The woodenware from Dadant finally arrived on Friday and I couldn’t wait to get started building all the supers for the bee hives. I chose Dadant because they honestly have some of the best woodenware out there, it was a toss-up between them and Walter Kelly but the free shipping from Dadant tipped the scales in their favor.

I had long ago decided to use only medium supers for all my hives and in this order, I got 8 medium supers, bottom boards, top covers (copper for Natalie) and frames. I opted for the unassembled because I wanted to save some money and I figured it would give me an opportunity to learn. I’ve watched nearly every video on beekeeping on YouTube so I needed to try out my new skills!

Well, as you can see from the video below, building the supers was easy, staining them was a choice Natalie and I made today, I had some trial and error but ultimately decided on a cedar-tinted wood protector and a dark walnut stain over that. It leaves the wood with a nice light brown with strong orange highlights. I quite like the look and I think it compliments the copper nicely. I also picked up a wood toolbox which you can see me testing the staining method on about mid-ways through the video.

I started building the frames today after I built the supers but only got 25 of the 50 completed. Not too shabby for a day’s work, I think.

Bees, a love affair finally realized.

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As a kid, I was deathly allergic to bees, anytime I got stung it was an immediate trip to the doctor to get treated. I was always fascinated by bees and my interest only peaked as a teenager when I got a chance to be around them through a beekeeper who went to our church. I was no longer allergic to bee strings and had learned enough to know they were one of God’s most amazing gifts to mankind. I can say I was really mesmerized by the complexity and beauty of honey bees.

I finally found my opportunity after 25 years to take a stab at being a beekeeper when Natalie decided we should start the homestead project with a garden. A garden’s best friend is pollinators, obviously, my favorite pollinator is the honeybee and with Natalie’s blessing, I began my research.

For north American beekeepers, there really are only three breeds of honey bees to choose from, Russian, Italian, and Carniolan. I opted for Italian bees because based on my research they were docile and overwintered well. Having two young kids made being more docile the single most important factor for which type we should keep. I’ll be keeping the hives behind a fence so I’m not terribly worried about the kids getting mixed up with a swarm of angry bees but I’m also not interested and pushing my luck. And as luck would have it, Walter T. Kelly, one of the nation’s most respected beekeeping supplier companies is right here in good ‘ol Kentucky, albeit two hours away from the  house.

I ordered two packages of Italian bees and I’m set to pick them up on April 23rd. I really can’t wait for that ride home!

A bench, a foundation for things to come…

IMG_20160130_162510536My garage doesn’t have a bench. Let me say that again for those who know me well know that I’ve probably built a workbench in every garage I’ve ever lived in. My garage doesn’t have a workbench! If Natalie and I were going to start this homestead journey in the spring, I had to have a trusty handy dandy workbench. I, however, wasn’t interested in leveraging one of the tried and true designs I’d built in the past, I wanted something simple and different, I wanted something movable.

My design is quite simple. It’s based off of a single 4′ x 8′ 3/4″ plywood top. I wanted to limit the cuts so I bought 4″ x 4″ x 8′ beams for the legs and 2″ x 6″ x 8′ boards for the skirt. I used standard 2″ x 4″ x 8′ boards for the framing and support. 2lbs of deck screws and 4 2″ casters and 4 hours of cutting, screwing and sweating and I had a mobile workbench that was solid as a rock and incredibly utilitarian. I love it and it’s going to get lots of use in the next few months, I’m sure of that. More pictures of the build are below.

Our new homestead adventure…

visit-to-jill-s-house-5-1426702-638x422In June of 2015 my wife and I purchased our “forever” home. A wonderful home on an amazing piece of property. We were able to find something that allowed us that elbow room we so craved but also kept us in the city limits. We have been busy focusing nearly all our available time on the house and all the things we needed to update or fix. Well, now it’s winter and we have finally decided to start the homestead and focus our time and attention to the outside. In an effort to keep track of our homestead adventure, I decided to create this domain and blog. Join us as we begin an amazing adventure of homesteading.

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