Denise: This morning’s walk with Tilly was from the road end at South Smerclete along the track at the head of the beach and round the point at Ceann a’ Garraidh. Grey scudding clouds, a cold wind, occasional spots of rain, heaps of kelp cast onto the beach, and strewn with wind-blown flotsom. And strangely beautiful!
Jonathan: Sunny and still this afternoon – a good time (for November) to check how the bees are.
There was a little coming and going from the hive, though goodness knows what they were doing out and about!
The hive with the colony I created with the transferred Queen, had almost used up the honey they had made since August and stored in the super: just the innermost frames still had any honey. I removed this super (and the queen excluder) and replaced it with an eke, and put in that a generous supply of fondant, and also a supply of Nectapol (just in case!).
The ‘original’ colony (which I left to form a new queen) still has lots of honey in its super. I replaced the empty outer frames with those from the other hive which still had honey on them. So I didn’t need to supply fondant, but did provide some Nectapol (again, just in case!). Queen excluder left in place, as I didn’t disturb the super – just slight rearrangement of frames. Later in the winter, when they’ve run down the honey in the super, I’ll remove both the super and the queen excluder, so that there is the minimum air space inside the hive and the food I supply is as near to them as possible.
Last time I was home I saw workers kicking drones out of the hives. This time I didn’t see any drones at all. But quite a lot of workers were sent out to sort me out! About the same number from each hive, and equally prompt, but nonetheless I have the impression that the ‘new’ hive does not have so many bees.
My strategy this winter is to simply maintain a supply of essentials, keep them warm and dry, so as to give them the best possible chance of getting through.
Next spring I’ll need to check that we still have at least one queen. If there are indeed two (ie both hives are viable), then there’s more reason to be confident that it’s worth continuing. I have a provisional order for two new nucs to be collected in May.
Denise and I have agreed to rearrange the fencing in this corner of the garden, so as to create a larger sheltered area, and to site beehives in little sunny gaps amongst the trees and bushes. Another job!
Jonathan: First off today was to deliver 32 skeins of our own Hebridean wool to Rona in Hacleit, Benbecula, as agreed payment for the Hebridean sheep we bought from her last year. She’s had to wait a year for her payment, but we’ve had to wait a year for the mill to process it! I also collected from Rona her fleeces from this year: there’s very little value in the raw fleeces, but Rona’s s happy first and foremost that the wool gets put to a good use: if the raw fleeces are of any particular value, then we pay her in vegetables, or preserves or something like that.
Next to the crofting township of Aird, also in Benbecula, for my first lesson on dry stane dyking. £30 for four 3-hour lessons. Learning from a recognised master – Neil MacPherson, hard-working crofter on the island of Benbecula, and also a talented dancer and teacher of (traditional) dancing. There were ten students, all very keen to learn, and believe it or not 4 of them were women, of ages from 20s to 60s. Most of my walling experience has been with repairing the high wall around our garden, but generally re-packing into the face of the wall stones that have fallen, and repointing with lime: very different to building up a dry wall from scratch! After registration and safety tips, we had a brief introduction to the types of stone we’d be working with (essentially square rock from the ground and round rock from the beaches!) and then got on with stripping turf from the line of the wall, setting-up A-frames, and then building up the wall. Three hours passed very quickly indeed! Thankfully it was, if cold, sunny bright and dry.
After that it was round to the croft next door to collect three lovely Hebridean ewe lambs I’d agreed to buy last time I was home. (I already have two from Catherine MacLennan. They have good pedigree sheep, have lovely fleeces, and have been very well looked after.) They were all ready and waiting for me, and I just needed to transfer them to my trailer, do the paperwork and pay up, and then we were away home. Oh, and with a bag of fleeces as well!
45 mins or so later, at the croft in Eriskay, I had to gently persuade the sheep out of the trailer: they are very used to people and were very easy to handle: I needed to get the details off their ear tags for my own records. The other sheep were the other side of the house, out of view, so I’ll be back tomorrow to see how they are integrating.
And finally back home to find the last batch of parcels I sent from Welwyn Garden City have arrived, and to unpack and find a home for all the contents. The oil-filled radiator I bought in Comet, Hatfield, is now here in my office, keeping my fingers warm as I type this.