Time to cull some geese for the freezer. I need to cut numbers from 24 down to about 9 – 3 ganders each with two females. First priority for culling were the couple of noisy chinese geese and the youngster they’d raised this year (not actually there’s – I put a fertile egg under the goose!). Also an infertile older grey-back goos, and a young chinese gander raised in an incubator and on the grass at home. I managed all of these except the chinese goose: generally I walked them until the one I wanted was isolated from the others and then walked them up to and along a sheep-netting fence where they are much easier to catch without resorting to chasing and all the stress that results in. However I never got the chinese goose: by the time I got to her she and all the others were wise to my game, and they were keeping well clear of me!
As it happens, I only just had time to process the four I’d could get hold of. Lacking any plucking aids, I stuck to simply extracting the best meat – breast and thighs. And very good too! For the first time I saved curled feather and down for making pillows: though we’ll need to collect up a lot more before we’ve enough to make something worthwhile!
I really do not like killing the geese: they are gentle intelligent (if a bit silly) creatures, with personalities. They are also difficult to kill cleanly. However they do make good sense on my croft, as they are grazing animals which I can manage on my own without dogs or expensive equipment or for that matter endless paperwork and regulations. In fact geese are very easy to keep and scarcely cost a thing.
A huge crop of black-currants this year, so no difficulty justifying making lots into wine! That was some weeks ago, and in the last couple of days I’d noticed the fermentation had ground to a virtual halt and the demijohn was clearing. Time to rack off. 2 full size and 1 half-size, and as Jonathan at home, it goes all the more smoothly with two pairs of hands – and two glasses. We used the half-size demijohn to top up the big ones, and of course what was left just wasn’t worth keeping.
The black-currants make up for no blackberries (the king of home-made wines) this year. Turned to mush by a wet late summer and autumn, and with Jonathan away from home neither the time nor the desire to go off on my own for hours amongst the brambles. But next year … !
Bee inspection day today. Lovely and sunny and warm and only the lightest of breeze, so ideal. Both hives were kitted out with queen excluder and a single super. Loads of honey in the supers (almost full) and a good amount in the brood chamber too.
It was clear that the original hive (which I’d removed the queen from) was the stronger of the two, and though I couldn’t find a new queen or any grubs (but a worrying number of drones) it could just be that it is late in the year and after a spell of bad weather the queen (if indeed there is one) is simply not laying just now.
At the new hive, into which I moved queen AGM2 (who has been very productive all summer) back in late August, I also could not find either queen or grub or any larvae. And there certainly were a lot of drones. Again, it could well be that the queen has simply stopped laying eggs for now – perhaps for the winter?
I’ve been noticing over the past few days two or three workers grab hold of a drone and push and push it out of the hive, often falling with the drone to the ground. This is I think the annual eviction of the drones, who have now outlived their usefulness. They must have to do this again and again until the drones give up and go elsewhere – or die.
I couldn’t afford to keep searching for the queens, as the afternoon warmth would soon fade and I would chill the bees and cause losses. Whatever the situation now, the only thing I can do is keep them safe and warm, and ensure there is enough food to keep whatever I have alive through to the spring, and then we’ll see where we are.
Next year, with me at home and – hopefully – two new nucs from Colonsay, and at least reasonable weather, we should at last see some progress. If not: I would then really have to accept that the conditions here are not good enough for honey bees. But for now I’ve got to give it my best shot!