Cider experiment update

The yeast did start in the 1 1/2 gallons of cider without resorting to the baker’s yeast starter. That’s probably a good thing, since the cider in the mason jar has a strong yeast taste. It’s strong in the other sense too. I doubt one could drink the pint without feeling its effect. It is as strong as a white wine.

Hard cider experiment

One fall thirty-five years ago, my dad made a cider press. We used it once or twice. The press has sat in my parent’s attic ever since. Then two years ago, when my parents moved to West Virginia, so they asked me if I wanted the press. I did, so the press was moved from their attic to my shed where it has sat ever since.

For no particular reason, I decided to try it out today. I collected about 15# of apples from the neighbor’s tree and ground them in a food processor. I then ran the ground up apples through the cider press and got 1 1/2 gallons (plus 1 pint) of cider. The press worked well but grinding apples in a food processor won’t scale.

I added 9 cups of sugar to the cider and stored it in a 1-gallon jug, a half gallon jug, and put the remaining pint into a 1-quart mason jar. To the cider in the mason jar, I added about 1/4 of a package of baker’s yeast. My plan is to use the cider in the mason jar as a starter if the natural yeast doesn’t take in the jugs.

Watching the hive

This morning at 6:00 am, I set up a water dish for the hive. Bees need water and I was concerned that they would start using the neighbor's pool. That seemed like bad PR at the very least. There were about 50 dead bees on the ground in front of the hive. Those were the only bees I saw but I put my ear to the hive box and could hear lots of buzzing.

That afternoon, I checked again. It was amazing to see all the commotion. Man do those bees work hard. Now I know where the expressions "busy as a bee," and "hive of activity" come from. They have even removed all the dead bees from the ground in front of the hive.

Other than a quick check to make sure the queen is released, you leave the hive undisturbed for 15 days so that they get established. Otherwise, they might abandon the hive box and go live somewhere else.

Hiving Time

At 7:45 pm, I started the process of convincing 14,000 bees to get out of the screen box that contained them and into the bee hive box that I had set up that morning.

There are basically three ways to hive a package of bees:

  • Dump the bees out in front of the hive and let them crawl in,
  • Set the open package box inside the hive and leave it, or
  • Dump the bees out of the package onto the top of the open hive.

It was 54 degrees and nearly dark, so dumping the bees out in front of the hive was out. Placing the package box inside the hive seemed really easy but it would need to be retrieved later and the bees might start making comb inside the package box. It seemed that shaking the bees out onto the hive box was the way to go.

These bees were packaged in Georgia less than 24 hours earlier. They were in great shape. I don’t think that there were 10 dead bees in the whole package. I sprayed the bees with sugar water several times before I opened the top to get the queen. The queen lives in a little cage inside the package box. The queen cage has a cork that covers a candy plug on the bottom. You remove the cork, then place the queen cage between the two center frames of the hive. Next, you shake all the bees out on top of the frames, covering the queen.

It went smoothly — no stings. Since it was cold, I didn’t bother with the veil. One bee did get her stinger stuck in my shirt while I was trying to shake her off.

Ironically, 30 minutes later and too dark to see well, I go back to the hive to show my brother-in-law. I picked up the empty package box to show him but it wasn’t exactly empty. I pinched a pair of bees when I grabbed the package box and got stung twice. If you plan to keep bees, then it’s not a question of if you get stung — just a question of when. At least I didn’t have to wonder about “when” for very long.

Bee Day

I am ready to pick up my package of bees. I ordered a 4-pound package of bees. At 3500 bees per pound, that’s 14,000 bees.

Sue and I took Alex out of school for the day and the three of drove to Forrest, OH to pick them up. We left the house at 9:30. It was cold. It was rainy. It was four hours each way without getting lost. I got lost both ways. (Aside: Sue bought a new GPS today)

The husband and wife team at Parsons’ Gold Apiaries were great. They had an empty package box and hive set up so that they could walk me through hiving the bees.

It was 7:30 when we got home. I needed to hurry to get the bees hived before dark.