Did you ever have one of those days that just went on and on? We had one just this past Thursday.
The good news is that at the end of the day, we had accomplished many things, even though it took all day.
As we move forward we are excited to move back into the climate controlled Mercantile on Fridays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. On Friday, June 26, the featured baked item will be mini-pies. Check the online store to order.
One of the most frequently asked questions about Five Feline Farm is about the honeybees. This year has been a start over year. We presently have two thriving hives and are determined to keep these colonies alive if at all possible. Our goal is to avoid the tragedy we experienced last year in losing colonies and increase the number of colonies in the spring.
We did harvest a very small amount of honey this year from one colony. Although the bees did produce a fair amount of honey, we made the decision to prioritze the health of the bees and leave this additional honey for their winter food supply. This will increase their likelihood of making it through the forecasted harsh winter and is more important than any profit potential we might realize by removing more honey.
What do honeybees do in the winter?
This is a common question. People often assume that honeybees hibernate in the winter. The reality is that honeybees do not hibernate, they cluster.
When temperatures drop, the colony huddles together in a ball with the queen and her attendants in the middle. The bees on the outer edge form an insulating layer. The inner layers of bees vibrate their abdominal muscles to generate heat for warmth. Periodically, one of the inner bees will move to the outer layer and push her cold sister into the middle of the ball to allow her time to warm up.
The bees also pass food from one to the other and to the queen. The entire cluster moves throughout the hive over the winter to where the honey reserves are stored. It is important for the beekeeper to leave enough honey for the bees. Yes, we can and do supplement with dry granulated sugar as needed to ensure they have plenty to eat before the spring nectar flow begins.
If all goes as planned, our colonies will overwinter.
You can follow the progress of Five Feline Farm through these weekly blogposts, and our social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Honeybee stings happen. Being prepared with a quick treatment will reduce pain, itch and swelling.
But I’m allergic to honeybees!
This is something we hear all the time. There is allergic and then there’s ALLERGIC. Be sure to know the difference in a localized allergic reaction and an allergy to bee venom that causes a systemic involvement of your airway.
An allergic reaction will cause localized swelling, warmth and itching around the sting. This will last 2 or 3 days and cause relatively minor discomfort. The amount of swelling will vary from person to person, but can be treated with home remedies.
A systemic allergic reaction is quite a different matter. This type of full body involvement may cause a person’s airway to swell and impede the ability to breathe. Anyone who has this type of reaction to a bee sting must receive immediate medical treatment. Home remedies are not for you. You likely already carry an Epi-pen (a portable means of injecting epinephrine in an emergency) and for use immediately after a sting. This is a serious medical emergency and should be treated in an emergency room even after the use of an Epi-pen.
Here’s what we do for the occasional bee sting.
First, don’t panic. This will alarm the other bees and you may end up being stung more than once. Walk away from the hive and remove the stinger. Your goal is to scrape the stinger out against the direction of the sting. When the bee leaves her stinger in you, there is a small bulb of venom at the end of the stinger. Place the edge of a credit card (in a pinch you could use the edge of your hive tool) between the venom bulb and the insertion point of the stinger. Scrape toward the bulb end of the stinger with a firm flick of the card. This should remove the stinger from your skin and stop the flow of venom. It is beneficial to do this as quickly as possible after being stung.
After removing the stinger, apply an ice pack to the affected area. This will help reduce swelling and offer immediate relief. We also add a smear of honey to the affected area. Honey has antiseptic properties and seems to reduce the itch. You can take an antihistamine such as Benadryl if necessary.
Remember honeybees will rarely sting while foraging away from the hive. They are focused on gathering pollen and nectar with no concern about much else. Foraging bees are not in a position to defend the hive or the queen. Unless aggravated, squeezed or stepped on, they are not likely to sting.
For more information about avoiding stings in the first place, check out this blog post on the Mother Earth News website: How To Not Get Stung
Is there a certain amount of acreage required? Maybe a minimum amount of produce raised? Perhaps keeping livestock meets the qualification?
We have asked ourselves these questions as we build this slice of the country we call Five Feline Farm. At first, we referred to it as just the “farm”; a tongue-in-cheek expression of our postage stamp sized property plopped in the middle of large fields of corn, soybeans and wheat. As we discover our mission to live a full life with a blend of old skills and modern conveniences, we also found the answer to being real.
Is there a minimum required acreage?
We have five and a half acres. From this fertile land, we can grow a lot of the produce, herbs, fruit and nuts we need to keep our pantry and freezers full. There is even enough excess to sell at the Farmer’s Market. It takes a lot of planning and hard work but it is a joy to bite into a warm tomato fresh from the garden or add home grown roasted peppers to a pot of chili in the depth of winter.
How about a minimum amount of production?
The line of products we offer in our Mercantile, whether on line or on site is limited only by our time and imagination. We sew cat toys from scraps of fabric and stuff them with catnip grown and dried on the farm. There are balms and soaps and jams and baked goods all created right here. We even offer farm roasted whole coffee beans.
Are livestock required?
Did you know honeybees are considered livestock? It’s true according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Beekeeping has changed our perspective on many things. We are better consumers and more aware of good practice in how we approach planting, fertilizing and particularly pest management. We use this practical mantra: “if it’s good for the bees, it’s good for us”. Plus, any excess honey harvested beyond what we personally use is sold.