Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Puppies expected late January 2010

Our yellow lab, Sedona, is expecting puppies to be born Jan. 25, 2010, give or take a few days. This will be her second litter (the first was in Feb. 2008). We anticipate another beautiful litter!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bee Bedtime

The winds of autumn blow and the cold of winter is approaching and the bees will soon settle in for a long winter. It was a pretty good season for the bees: lots of moisture, moderate temperatures, and moderate mite pressure. Moving indoors for the winter, the bees remain in their hives during the cold and will venture out briefly for 'cleansing' flights whenever the thermometer breaks 50 degrees F.

The picture, above, is of a swarm that took up residence in one of my abandoned hives. The apiary where these gals settled in had been a dismal failure and I'd left the boxes for an eventual cleanup. The property owner saw me in the grocery store and alerted me to our new residents which I promptly rehoused and fed sugar syrup in the hopes of helping them survive the winter. They had built up this comb on the inside cover in the void of the hive which had half the space occupied by honeycomb frames. There was no honey to be found so they were grateful for my contribution. If the weather permits we will give them a couple more frames of filled honeycomb to complement the converted sugar syrup that they're processing belatedly into honey stores.

The population size is relatively small so it is uncertain how well they will do during the cold season. A late season swarm rarely survives the winter but with our help we hope to improve the odds.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Litter Coming Spring 2010

Our usual winter litter has been delayed as we wait for our Sedona's heat cycle. We have a list of anxious puppy-owners-to-be. Contact us if you'd like to learn more about our puppies.

Honey Season Coming to Close

Our bees came through in fine fashion this year, producing a record crop of the most outstanding tasting honey in Connecticut! We had three harvests, in mid July, early August, and mid September, each with distinctive colors and taste

Our mid-July harvest was our earliest ever, coming two weeks sooner than usual and was the most remarkable honey we've ever had: very pale yellow in color, it was made up of significant amounts of locust honey which bloomed profusely in the first week of June.

Three weeks later, wild raspberry nectar provided a beautiful addition of light-to ruby red honey that when blended with the earlier honey produced a rich but mild honey with a hint of berry flavor.

Finally, in September, the bees had finished ripening a deep red amber honey consisting of Japanese knotweed, jewelweed, and tulip poplar nectars--our darkest honey yet--that was more complex and richly flavored than the two harvests from earlier in the summer.

TASTE makes our honey memorable and preferred by non-honey lovers three-to-one!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lavender Blooms = Luscious Honey!

Years ago, Stasia and Glenn traveled through Provence in mid-July at the height of the lavender harvest. We brought back a few seeds and started our own 'field', a few plants to remind us of that magical week in France. Since then, we've planted more and our own harvest, on an infinitely smaller scale, is under way.

Our lavender is in full bloom now, sending up tall spikes of fragrant flowering buds. The honeybees and bumble bees are hard at work moving up and down the rows lighting on a flower for a brief moment before moving to the next spike. The soft buzzing drifting through the mounds is something to behold.

We use our lavender in our infused lavender honey, combining the dried buds with our wildflower honey to make a uniquely flavored treat. This year we're also selling fresh bunches of lavender at our farm market venues. And, we make several wonderfully rich handcrafted soaps and a skin cream, each with the relaxing scent of pure lavender. Together, they spell July in Connecticut!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Finest Honey Yet

Okay, as the beekeeper we may be a bit partial but this year's honey crop is the best tasting honey our bees have ever made (well at least for the last 10 years)! Never seen our honey as 'white' (or light) as this year's crop. While we've had a pretty extensive and lengthy clover bloom it seems like a significant amount of honey came from the incredible bloom from the black locust, a tree that exploded with creamy white/yellow flowers for about 10 days in early June. Along every major road we traveled the normally low key locust flaunted its dense pea-flower clusters, and really popped out from the deciduous crowd it hangs with.

Some reports suggest up to a third of one's honey crop in Connecticut can come from the locust tree. The book, ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, by A. I. Root, describes locust honey as "water white with a mild flavor and good body... bringing premium prices due to its high quality." This was the best bloom of locust in at least the past ten years and is dependent upon good weather; rain or cold weather can end the bloom prematurely. Amazing, that with all the rain we've experienced this spring and early summer, our window of good weather came just as the locust came into flower.

Some of the hives had frames of wild raspberry honey too! Pinkish in color and tasting like raspberry syrup its taste can still be detected when blended with the other frames of white honey collected thus far. We look forward to bringing in more tasty honey in the weeks ahead as the bees finish the ripening of this year's honey.

Dogs Gone!

What a fun litter this one was! With only four puppies we saw a very different dynamic: less sibling rivalry and more 'brotherly love'. Usually in the last weeks we have them the noise level from the whelping box grows as the puppies begin to explore the social framework of being canines. There's a lot of ear biting, tug-o-war, and chase play as puppies learn to live and play with others. In this smaller litter, there was less competition and a calmer atmosphere.

Our last two pups to go, Mo and Eenie, both males, found themselves going home with loving families. Eenie moved west... to Glenmont, NY (near Albany) and Mo went East... all 15 miles to Waterford, CT. Alas, shortly after they left we had several calls from others looking to take Mo or Eenie home. As usual, we plan to have a late Fall litter and the story will go on...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Best Honey Crop Ever!

We're looking forward to our best and biggest honey crop ever! It's been a strange season weatherwise but it's been quite agreeable to the bees. Cooler and wetter than normal but not so wet as to wash out all nectar, our bees have built up quickly and are currently bringing in clover and wild raspberry, making for a very clear white and then pink honey in the combs. We expect to make our first harvest very soon--about three-four weeks earlier than normal. Soon available at our farm markets!!!

Eight Weeks and Homeward Bound...

How fast pups grow! Now at 10 lbs., our pups have achieved the ripe old age of eight weeks... and 'Minie' was the first to go to her new home. She moved just up the road here in Essex where she'll enjoy a loving family.

Our remaining three, from left to right, Mo (M), Meenie (F), and Eenie (M) are having fun without their sister--heck, same helping of food three times a day but now split among three. Yippie! Meenie will be leaving us today for her new home in Chester, CT. A very excited family will be enjoying their FIRST DOG ever! Always a special moment for us, placing a pup with a family who has never experienced the joy of a lab licking your face, holding the ball waiting to play retrieve, or nuzzling against your outstretched hand while you sit watching TV.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Honey Crop Looks Promising

This year's honey crop is shaping up to be our best in years!! Weather has been cooler than normal but we've had good rainfall at appropriate times to keep good ground moisture and promote consistent flowering. The cool weather in early May truncated the dandelion bloom, or so it seemed, but the flowering of willows, maples, and oaks brought consistent sources of pollen and nectar to the bees during the critical early buildup of bee brood in the hives.

Right now we're seeing a healthy bloom of clover and an amazing abundance of black locust flowers! This tree can be a significant contributor to honey production and this looks like one of those years. In contrast, last year's locust nectar was washed out by eight consecutive days of rain and really set back honey production for the season.

Japanese honeysuckle is just starting and wild raspberries will not be far behind. This is the peak of flowering and we're hoping the bees enjoy nature's bounty as much as us!

Puppies @ 5 Weeks!

Hard to believe the pups have reached the ripe old age of five weeks! They're now eating solid food (much to mother Mingus' relief--she's not the doting mom the way our Bromley and Sedona can be) and growing by leaps and bounds. This photo is of "Meenie" at 4 weeks.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Mo...

It is our tradition to give pups temporary names while they reside with us. Each develops its own personality and by keeping track of them individually we're better able to match puppies with prospective owners as well as communicate the qualities observed during their 8 -10 weeks the puppies are in our care.

This litter was unusual in that the pups were born early, a bit smaller than our other litters in both size and numbers. Our daughter, Nadia, proposed their names based on these facts and we all agreed they were a good fit: Eenie, Meenie, Minie, and Mo. The first two named are our black male and female, and the latter two are the yellow female and male, respectively. Though each started out small we have no doubt that they'll quickly grow into lovable fuzz balls of boundless energy!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

New Pups born to Mingus!

Our dam, Mingus, gave birth to four pups on Sunday: two yellows, two blacks, a male and female of each color! All are doing well and are growing fast. The litter came a bit early (by a couple of days from Mingus' due date) and the pups were on the small side. Fortunately, they have big appetites and are growing by leaps and bounds. Check back soon for pictures and more updates...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Glimpse of Spring

This week brought the first sustained period of 'warm' weather this year: temps in the 50s for a couple of days. That was enough to bring the bees out of their hives and out for some early foraging. From the pale color of pollen many were carrying, it would seem they found flowering willows somewhere nearby. I saw this on both sides of the Connecticut River where we have apiaries. On our farm we've tapped a few maple trees and the bees had discovered the sweet sap too! Though it may only be about 2 percent sugar that was enough to attract honeybees (as well as a few ants).

The weather also allowed us to inspect the hives, get them some sugar syrup and pollen substitute, and check the general conditions of our bees. Alas, it was another traumatic winter and we suffered pretty substantial losses. Not totally unexpected given the health of the bees going into the winter late last year. Fortunately, the hives where we installed mite resistant queens did pretty well. These may be the building blocks for establishing hardier stock.

Currently, most beekeepers in Connecticut source their bees from a supplier in Georgia. Southern bees get a jump start on the season and allow us northerners to replace bees lost in time to get a crop in the same year. The downside is these bees aren't proven in our New England climate so losses tend to be greater. This year we hope to develop a few starter hives (called "nuc's") from our survivor stock so that we can build on their genetic success. In the meantime, we'll be getting some packages of Georgia bees at the end of March and beginning of April.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pesticides and Bees

Many beekeepers have experienced horrifying losses of bees in the past two years due to a mysterious malady dubbed "Colony Collapse Disorder". This year, one beekeeper in Florida reports his 1,000 hives in December have dropped to only 50 colonies in just a month's time. Here in Connecticut there has been little if any reporting of CCD thus far. While there is no confirmed explanation for CCD, many beekeepers are starting to question some of the newer classes of pesticides being produced and used on the nation's food supply. A class of pesticides derived from tobacco, known as 'Neonicitinoids' are being used as a replacement for 'hard' pesticides used on cherries and apples, for instance. Neonicitinoids are used in seed treatments (soybean and corn) and as foliar sprays and are systemic, meaning they are absorbed by the plant. The German chemical company, Bayer, is a leading producer.

Could these substances be making their way into the nectar or pollen that bees feed on? Low levels of exposure could become toxic as these materials are brought into a hive on an ongoing basis and absorbed into the beeswax. Believe it or not, toxicology studies are submitted to the EPA by the producer, rather than an independent third party. If the company presents data showing the substance is safe and effective, the government apparently can accept and approve the use of the chemical. Ironically, Germany last year banned the use of neonicitinoids for agricultural use.

Meanwhile, I found this press release interesting:

NRDC Sues to Get Public Records on Pesticides
WASHINGTON - August 18 - The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit today to uncover critical information that the US government is withholding about the risks posed by pesticides to honey bees. NRDC legal experts and a leading bee researcher are convinced that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evidence of connections between pesticides and the mysterious honey bee die-offs reported across the country. The phenomenon has come to be called “colony collapse disorder,” or CCD, and it is already proving to have disastrous consequences for American agriculture and the $15 billion worth of crops pollinated by bees every year.

EPA has failed to respond to NRDC’s Freedom of Information Act request for agency records concerning the toxicity of pesticides to bees, forcing the legal action.

“Recently approved pesticides have been implicated in massive bee die-offs and are the focus of increasing scientific scrutiny,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Aaron Colangelo. “EPA should be evaluating the risks to bees before approving new pesticides, but now refuses to tell the public what it knows. Pesticide restrictions might be at the heart of the solution to this growing crisis, so why hide the information they should be using to make those decisions?”

In 2003, EPA granted a registration to a new pesticide manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the condition that Bayer submit studies about its product’s impact on bees. EPA has refused to disclose the results of these studies, or if the studies have even been submitted. The pesticide in question, clothianidin, recently was banned in Germany due to concerns about its impact on bees. A similar insecticide was banned in France for the same reason a couple of years before. In the United States, these chemicals still are in use despite a growing consensus among bee specialists that pesticides, including clothianidin and its chemical cousins, may contribute to CCD.

In the past two years, some American beekeepers have reported unexplained losses of 30-90% of the bees in their hives. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops grown in America. USDA also claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination. As the die-offs worsen, Americans will see their food costs increase.

Despite bees’ critical role for farmers, consumers, and the environment, the federal government has been slow to address the die-off since the alarm bells started in 2006. In recent Congressional hearings, USDA was unable to account for the $20 million that Congress has allocated to the department for fighting CCD in the last two years.

“This is a real mystery right now,” said Dr. Gabriela Chavarria, director of NRDC’s Science Center. “EPA needs to help shed some light so that researchers can get to work on this problem. This isn’t just an issue for farmers -- this is an issue that concerns us all. Just try to imagine a pizza without the contribution of bees! No tomatoes. No cheese. No peppers. If you eat apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, squash, carrots, avocados, or cherries, you need to be concerned.”

Chavarria has spent more than 20 years studying bees, and has published a number of academic papers on the taxonomy, behavior and distribution of native bees.

NRDC filed the lawsuit today in federal court in Washington DC. In documents to be filed next month, NRDC will ask for a court order directing EPA to disclose its information about pesticides and bee toxicity.

The Message brought to you by Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping www.BeeCulture.com

Our bees have little exposure to farm chemicals in part because there's not much farming in our area and because we purposely place our bees away from agricultural areas. We do not use our bees as crop pollinators for the same reasons. Still, I hope Bayer will open up its testing data to outsiders and beekeepers--our nation's food supply demands it.

Our Next Litter: Puppies in June 2009

We're hoping our black lab, Mingus, is pregnant and if so we'll have a yellow-black litter ready to go in mid June. We have three requests thus far. If you're interested in a puppy, please be sure to contact us.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Snowflake heads West!

Last but not least, Snowflake left us Friday for her new home in Ridgefield, CT. Now known as "Chloe", she has a "big" brother pug named Bailey who will be showing her the rounds now. Whew! Our 1-year old lab, Bryce, will be a little lost without Snowflake as a constant playmate, but our loss is Chloe's gain: she joins a family with two children and of course Bailey who, as you can see, will soon be 'little brother'!

We're looking forward to our next litter in late spring. In the meantime, check back here for updates on our bees, labs, and whatever else we think of to fill these pages!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Snowflake" a Keeper!

Long our favorite from this most recent litter, "SNOWFLAKE", now 13-week old female, is learning the ropes around the house. Due to other commitments we refrained from advertising her availability until today and the time with us has proved fruitful and wistful at the same time. She's readily trainable--she's comfortable with a crate at night, has learned to 'sit', 'stay', and 'wait' for her bowl of food. We have four other labs, and everyone eats at the same time--even the youngest! One thing we all love is her luxurious coat. We keep joking about getting her a part in 101 Dalmations: Cruella Deville would die for the softness of Snowflake's fur! Alas! it will be harder to depart with this pup than the others... she's grown on us. A real "keeper" for a lucky owner!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CAICOS - 1997-2009 "The Matriarch"

It's an end to an era... regretfully, our grand dam Caicos passed away today, ending a wonderful life she gave us these past 11+ years.

Caicos Bill Leigh of Penbeck, arrived in Massachusetts on Oct 20, 1997. In early December of that year she joined our household and wiggled her way into our hearts. Maybe it was going to the bathroom on Kyra on the trip home from the breeder's, or her stealing of sandwiches and lunchbags from the construction crew that built our addition 10 years ago, or her 'skidaddle' scamper around the yard or... any and all of these events made Caicos a special dog.

She was a great swimmer and diver -- she loved jumping off the Connecticut River Museum dock for tennis balls and even this summer she found the strength to dive into the pool for frisbees and balls, a true lab retriever. Caicos had a penchant for rocks, with the ability to find rocks we never knew existed beneath our yard. Frustrating for us but, looking back, it brings a chuckle to see the twinkle in her eye and the dirt on her tongue as she caressed each rock between her front paws, licking it clean.

Caicos became known as the Matriarch, giving birth to several litters of puppies that fanned out across New England and brought happiness to so many families, including ours, for we kept two of her offspring, our Bromley and Mingus. Caicos loved puppies and even after she stopped having her own she still enjoyed climbing in the whelping box and playing nursemaid to her 'grandpups'. The puppies would jump on her, pull and bite her ears and she enjoyed every minute, only voicing disapproval when a wayward pup would try to muscle in on Caicos' food bowl while she was eating!

Caicos enjoyed trips to Vermont, going for hikes, romping in the snow, and swimming in the ponds and rivers around Bromley Mountain. Here in Connecticut she loved the beach, chasing after sticks thrown into waves or after seagulls strutting on the sand. She wasn't our first lab but she had a lot of 'firsts' for us. We're saddened by our loss but gladdened in having had her a part of our family for all these many years. Rest in peace, Caicos.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

One Snowflake remains

Nearly all of the pups are now living with their families, with Kris Kringle being picked up in Vermont to join his new family as "Willie" in Connecticut. Thus, we have only Snowflake still available. And what a doll she is! She's having the time of her life with her extended family of five labrador retriever aunts, sister, grandmother, and mother. They all get in a good 60-90 minutes of fun before Snowflake retires for a morning snooze and the lunch. Then another round of play time... and so it goes. Turns out she loves the snow (we've been in Vermont for the past 10 days)--living up to her name!