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adventures in beekeeping 2.0: the war is over, only the strong survive

Forgive the dramatic headline — I couldn’t resist! You might recall that when we last left our two humble hives, we had decided that the weak one needed to be merged with the strong one. It’s not a light decision, because essentially you are creating a war between the hives. The weak hive’s queen gets eliminated, and chances are a few of her drones go down with her.


Well, two weeks later, it seems that our attempt to create one, thriving hive has worked. Before placing one hive on top of the other, we covered the bottom one with a thin layer of newspaper with holes poked through it. This is so the hives could gradually get used to each others scent, and the war wouldn’t be as bloody. We think it worked, because – look! — the paper is gone! The bees ate right through it. It seems like the two have joined together nicely; we can see new bee activity throughout. On the very top level, we had placed a container of sugar water. The water is all gone and there were a ton of dead bees piled in there. We’re not sure if they drowned, or if that is where they “buried” the dead when they were cleaning house. Either way, it wasn’t as bad as we had expected.

The upshot of the combination is that we now hopefully have one really strong hive that will have a better chance of surviving the winter. The downside is it means we won’t be pulling any honey this season — they still need to do a lot of food creating to so they have a stock through the cold season.

Click here to see previous Adventures in Beekeeping posts!

plan next year’s garden by supporting togetherfarm on kickstarter!

Yesterday, on the drive home from our Labor Day getaway, we listened to a podcast on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show with David Robertson, the author of Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the rule of Innovation and Conquered The Global Toy Industry. I learned a lot I didn’t know about the Danish building block company, but mostly I was reminded about the importance of looking at things with a fresh eye, even if they seem old.

TogetherFarm Blocks are a wonderful use of Lego-inspired designed because they do just that. They take discarded things like unwanted plastic milk jugs and other plastic waste and turn it into a fun and practical new way to contain your growing plants. The interlocking blocks come in four colors and can snap together to form just about any shape or configuration you can imagine — no tools needed! Anyone who has ever spent a day installing a wooden raised bed in their garden should rejoice in that news. The system is built with the garden in mind: There are stake holes which allow you to insert supports or trellises. Made from 100% BPA-free recycled plastic, they won’t fall prey to rot, termites or mold. Best of all, if you garden grows like mad (and we know it will) you can easily readjust and add to new blocks to accommodate.

The Portland-based company has put together a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds needed to jump start its manufacturing. Donors will receive some starter blocks to get their garden growing. This video explains it all.

Click here to visit Together Block’s Kickstarter Page.

adventures in beekeeping 2.0: combining two hives into one

This past weekend we had to admit a sad fact: One of our beehives was just not producing enough bees or bee supplies (i.e. honey) to survive a winter. We installed our two separate hives about 10 weeks ago. The “blue” hive is cranking. They have filled one bottom layer of files and more than half of a second. The “pink hive” has barely filled half of their starter layer. We don’t know what they are doing, but it ain’t much. To help ensure the success of at least one of our two hives, we decided to combine them – which basically means sacrificing the pokey queen for the strong one. It also means that we intentionally created a bee war in our backyard. Why do I keep hearing the Game of Throne’s theme playing in my head? Here’s how it works.

1. Condense the two hives that are to be joined.
In our case that meant simply taking off the top layers (that we just put in a rash of hopefulness). They were mostly empty anyway, though of course there were probably a couple of hundred of bees in each of them.

2. Use smoke to get the “strong” hive to burrow in while you place a layer of newspaper on top.
When bees smell smoke, they think there is a fire, so they run home and eat. (Sensible reaction, don’t you think?). The paper layer is to help the two hives get used to each other. You place the layer over the one five, make some bee-sized holes.

3. Place the second hive on top of the first hive.
The bees will be forced to find their way through the paper. In time, they will chew through it and become one. The paper will serve as slight barrier that will allow the bees to get used to the smell of the other bee so the inevitable “war” isn’t as deadly.

4. Give them some extra food.
We placed a layer of sugar water on top to help them through the moral crisis.

5. Sit back and wait for the bees to learn to cohabitate.

Eventually the weaker hive will submit and become a part of the stronger hive. The weaker queen bee will be history, so to speak.


We’ll report back in a couple of weeks and let you know how it is going. Wish us luck!

post off: what kind of office chair do you use?

It’s a sad fact that most of my adult life will be spent in an office chair. I’m lucky that ones I have been provided have mostly been very ergonomically friendly, such as the Herman Miller classic Aeron. But as more and more articles arise about the dangers of a life spent sitting, I’m looking for alternatives. I don’t know if I’m ready to switch to a standing desk — and one of these peddle spinning contraptions is much too much. Perhaps the best alternative is a ball chair. I’ve given into the wonders of a bouncy ball before, specifically when our daughter Isadora was first born. We kept a large yoga ball in bedroom, and in the wee hours in the morning when she was awake and I was zombie-like, I would sit and hold her my arms and bounce, bounce, bounce. It did wonders for her mood, not to mention my thighs. Unfortunately most ball chairs are look like they belong in some kind of hideous man-cave straight out of the eighties. That’s why this fuzzy beauty from Pottery Barn Teen caught my eye. How fun is that? Underneath the shag is an inflatable exercise ball. Ergonomic and chic? I’m worried that I’ll be laughed out of the Time Life Building where I work (remember, it’s where Mad Men is set — very traditional.) For $129 I might just have to give it a try.

What do you think? Do you work in an office all day? What kind of chair do you sit on?

finishing off our refinished deck with new furniture

There is one advantage to waiting until the summer season is half over to think about deck furniture: Sales! After seeing how nice our repainted deck looked once that project was finished, we decided it was time to step up our outdoor seating arrangements. Our previous table and chairs consisted of a slightly wobbly one that Chad made (though he gets an A for effort) and some blue plastic chairs from Ikea. Since we were already rocking a “vintage” look on our front porch with this glider, we thought we should steer in a similar direction in the back. (And honestly, I’m a little bored with the ubiquitous chunky teak/wood furniture all the catalogs have been selling this year.) At the oddly names site, OnWayFurniture.com we found this nearly perfect round white metal table with matching blue and white chairs on sale for $350. When it arrived, we were a little worried to see how low the table was, but once you sit back in a chair, preferably with an open bottle of craft beer in your hand, it feels just right.