Terraced North Side

There are a couple of big projects we’ve been working to finish before the snow flies. December has been cold, but dry. We’re all starting to ask one another, “Where’s the snow?” In its absence, there’s been the opportunity to extend the outdoor chore period. Some of the work is slow–because it’s cold, but progress is progress.

Terraced South Side

I’ve been striving to complete our erosion control project along the side walls of the barn, where the roof edges drain. Rick did the terracing and my job has been to plant groundcover, and then mulch the area with pine needles harvested from the forest. Some of it (where the soil is not so good) has an under-layer of shredded leaf mulch. (Thanks to the suggestion of Deb Weyrich-Cody.) It’s tedious work, and I can only go for a half day at a time in the cold. The mind wanders while planting approximately 4,600 little sprigs (but who’s counting?) I finished today–with the last of the pine needle mulch. We’re ready for whatever winter brings.

Peeking Through

As for Rick, ever since we started keeping bees, he has wanted to bring them in out of the elements for the harshest times of the winter. There’s a “sweet spot” with bees, between 37 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit–in which they remain in their semi-dormant phase–but consume fewer resources. Also, winter cold doesn’t kill the bees, but wild fluctuations of temperature are hard on them–and moisture can kill. Of course, before we could offer winter shelter, first we had to build a barn.

Our barn is a “bank barn,” meaning that it is partially buried into the hillside (“banked in”) so that each of the two levels has ground level access. At the back of the lower level, it is buried about nine feet deep, which gives it some warmth from the ground. This lower level of the barn is not heated, but, except in the very coldest weather, maintains a pretty constant 40 degrees. And it never gets really cold, regardless what the weather throws at us.

Rick’s end-of-season task was to reorganize the barn so that there was room along the back wall for the bees. It took over a week to move everything around and organize. One of the issues with a lot of storage space is that it leaves room for inefficiencies. Not any more. He stacked all the lumber for our various planned projects, built racks for garden tools and forest tools. He even cleared enough space to put the truck in the barn. Who knew?

Then he built a wheeled dolly to hold the hives. The tractor could have delivered them on a pallet to the back of the barn, but it would have filled the area with diesel fumes. Not good for the bees. So the solution was the hive dolly.

Today was bee moving day. It went so smoothly, it was almost anti-climatic. We slid the three hives off their hive stands directly onto the bee dolly. Rick strapped them down, carefully backed them down the hill and gently lowered them onto the apron of the barn entrance. From there, he just pushed the whole assembly to the back wall.

First hive loaded.

Strapping them tightly.

Backing down the hill!

Despite the care, the bees didn’t take kindly to the move. We could hear them buzzing furiously behind the wire gate keeping them in. But they quieted down quickly once the action was over.

Winter digs.

The sweet spot.

It was a long day, with a flurry of outdoor chores, making ready. Because, tomorrow, we have an overdue appointment with winter.