Friday, October 26, 2012

Labelling Honey Jars

     While you may not have this much fun labeling your honey jars there is no reason why it can't be enjoyable and creative.  Note that this posting is for backyard, non professional beekeepers.  The legal regulations for labeling honey jars for sale vary according to where you live.  In Europe this includes whether or not your honey contains pollen (has not been micro filtered) or was derived from Genetically Modified Plants.  In my opinion both of these considerations are very important and should be included on commercially produced honey.
     Whether you are canning produce from your garden, bottling jams or labeling honey jars most of us will begin with hand written labels meant to identify the product and when it was produced (Jars can get lost in the pantry for years).  A good idea is to get your children to do this.

     By using label templates you can easily upgrade the design of your labels.  I have found that they are easy to use and allow your to personalize a gift.

Honey Label

     I have compiled a group of 60 label templates free to use for the backyard, non commercial beekeeper and canner to download here.  You can also preview and download them in six categories: Vintage Honey Labels (A.I. Root, 1920) ; Modern Canning Labels (Circle) ; Modern Canning Labels (Rectangle)Vintage Canning Labels ; Nutritional Labels and Honey Infant Warning Label .  The first step is to choose the template of your choice.  There is a wide range to choose from.  You can also use your own photographs.

Vintage Canning Label
Honey Label
Modern Canning Label

Honey Label

Vintage Canning Label

     Once you have chosen your label you can use a free image editing program like Gimp or my favorite Photoscape to add words to your template.  With Photoscape you open the program, go to editor, choose your template on the left side, click on "Object" and choose either "Text" or "Rich Edit" to add words. You can then choose the size, type and color of font you want to use.  When finished save your label, print it, cut it out and glue to your jar.  I use regular printing paper and minimal glue as a lot of glue tends to discolor the label.   
     Botulism in honey is a risk to babies under the age of 1 year.  Although the risk is minimal it is recommended (to be on the safe side) that you not feed honey to infants under the age of one.  If you are giving jars to those you don't know you may want to include a warning label. 

     For commercial beekeepers the regulations on labeling food products is changing constantly and very dependent on where you live and how much you sell. For example in Florida beekeepers are now allowed to sell their honey from home (not stores) using a Florida Cottage Food Label as long as they do not exceed $15,000 in revenue. There are no regulations on non commercial home canning or honey production so like the ladies in the video above have fun and be creative. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wintering Hives Beekeeping Webinar

     The October 17th Beekeeping Webinar put on by author Kim Flottum and Ohio State University was a good overall reminder of hive dynamics in winter and how we can help our bees survive.

     The major problems for honey bees in winter are starvation, varroa and poor ventilation.  Cold condensation created by heat generated by the bee cluster contacting the cold inner cover will drip on the bees.  In cold climates wet bees are dead bees.  Possible solutions are insulation between the inner cover and outer cover, a moisture quilt or an Insulated Moisture Quilt.

     Wintering your bees is like real estate value in that the most important consideration is location (location, location, location).  Location dictates the methods you will use to protect your bees from the elements. Windbreaks are essential in some areas where there are cold, winter winds.  In winter we have a predominant, strong, low pressure, southeast weather pattern that brings with it fairly constant cold, wet winds.

     Wrapping is also very helpful at reducing heat loss.  Roofing paper is the favourite wrapping material (black absorbs heat from the sun) making sure to leave an upper hole for ventilation.  Some beekeepers insulate not only the top of their hives but the body as well, making sure once again to leave the upper ventilation hole open for air circulation.

     Other considerations are what type of bee you have.  Carnies and Russians (particularly Russians) winter smaller clusters, eat less, produce less winter brood and generally winter better than their southern Italian cousins (The Best Bee Type).  However, most bees are a hybrid of various types of bees.
     A great concern when wintering bees is starvation and to prevent this beekeepers must simply make sure they leave adequate frames of honey for thier bees.  Once again this is location dependent and for us is about 65-75 lbs or 10 deep frames.  For information on feeding bees go to Feeding Bees in Winter .
     To view this webinar go to the "Getting your hives ready for winter" with Kim Flottum or
"Putting the hive to bed for winter" with Kim Flottum .  You may also want to check out The Biology and Management of Colonies in Winter , Winterization Guide for Beekeeping , The Thermology of Wintering Honey Bee Colonies or Wrapping a Honey Bee Colony with Tar Paper  from the Beekeepers' Library.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Winter Prep Beekeeping Webinar

     This Wednesday, October 17th at 9 a.m EDT (real early in the west) Ohio State University will be presenting their October Beekeeping Webinar with author Kim Flottum entitled "Putting the Hive to Bed for Winter".  To join in the webinar go to the Sign-in page at 8:55 a.m EDT.  All of the O.S.U webinars are recorded and available at their Bee Lab or in our Beekeepers' Library in the Webinars section.
     The Bee Informed National Management Survey 2010-2011 (Survey) revealed some interesting insights into winter management.  Although the survey (Survey Results and Survey Respondent Profile) is new and relatively small scale it showed no measurable impact from winter preparation methods like hive wrapping or insulation but showed significant benefits from the equalization of hives in preparation for winter and the inclusion of an upper entrance.  The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists also suggests that an upper entrance is important to vent excess moisture (The Biology and Management of Colonies in Winter). The upper entrance also provides an alternative if the lower entrance is blocked by snow or dead bees. They also suggest that it is beneficial to wrap or insulate your hives in colder climates.
     The photo above is of one of my hives which is admittedly pampered.  It has a screened bottom board, mouse guard, hive body insulation and wrap, insulated moisture quilt and poly (2x4 and plastic sheet) weather cover.  The poly cover is mostly to protect the hive from strong southeast winds (local winter phenomena) and driving rain.  Obviously your winter preparation practices will depend on your location and how many hives you have.  With a thousand hives you certainly can't do what I have done above.
     Barbara Bloetsher did a previous webinar entitled "Planning now for Winter Preparation" that can be viewed in the webinar section of our Beekeepers' Library here.  There is also a few other webinars on wintering bees (Overwintering Bees and Getting Ready for Winter) that can be downloaded in the webinar section.

Overwintering Hives from the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education

     Enjoy the webinar.  It should be good.


Friday, October 12, 2012

A Farm for the Future

     It is impossible to discuss the future of beekeeping without discussing the future of agriculture.  Presently, we have created a mono culture, agro-chemical dependant, fossil fuel dependant agriculture system that is destined to fail within this century as we exhaust our supply of fossil fuel on earth (oil).  We have created an agricultural landscape that is lifeless.  The soil is inert or sterile so requires the constant addition of potassium, phosphorus and nitrates.  The universal inclusion of genetically modified, neonicotinoid, systemic pesticide infused seeds assures us of an unnatural, lifeless landscape and the constantly adapting pests assures the agro-chemcial companies of a constant, dependant market for their product.  Like a junkie in need of a fix. Bees can not survive in this toxic environment (See Insecticides and Bees and the Beekeepers' Library).  Most would agree that the future of agriculture and the health of our children should not be placed in the hands of agro-chemical companies (i.e. Monsanto).
     One possible alternative is permaculture farming which although vastly different from traditional farming shows some merit.  As someone who has worked in a traditional farm setting it is initially difficult to grasp this concept of natural farming with the inclusion of trees and bugs and weeds.  However, as you observe the process you begin to understand the intelligence of Mother Nature.  Every living thing has a purpose and provides naturally what our present day agricultural system uses toxic chemicals to accomplish.  Will the permaculture system provide food for 7 billion people?  My preliminary investigation of relatively small scale operations shows positive results but perhaps the future of farming lies in a combination of permaculture, alternative fuels and a more healthy and vastly different (less grain or rice dependant) diet.
     In this documentary wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates the future of her traditional, family farm in Devon.

      "With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family's wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year's high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.  Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future."

     A permaculture farm is a much healthier environment than the traditional farm for all species of bees because of the variety of plants, natural habitat for nesting and the lack of toxic chemical use (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides).  To learn more about permaculture go to the Bee Videos section of this website to view "Plants for a Future" and "In Grave Danger of Falling Food".

Friday, October 5, 2012

Save Cottonwood Garden

     Cottonwood Community Garden is a 4 acre green oasis in a concrete desert near the centre of downtown Vancouver.  It was created 21 years ago by a group of guerilla gardeners who painstakingly turned a former landfill into good, arable soil by removing tons of garbage and replacing it with similar quantities of compost created from the waste of nearby produce distribution warehouses.

 The original site of Cottonwood garden.

          There is presently 140 individual garden plots including a number of raised garden boxes for physically  challenged gardeners.  The garden also includes a number of public areas like the native forest, the asian garden, the fruit tree beds (cherry, sour cherry, apple, plum, pear, persimmon, mulberry, fig ...), fruit bushes (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry, grape, thimbleberry, salmonberry, kiwis ...) and a number of flower gardens.  

          It is the home of a number of nesting birds including a prominent bald eagle nest.

A new born resident of Cottonwood Garden.

     It is also home to our honey bees that love living in this green oasis that provides them with abundant flowering plants from early spring to late fall.  Native bees have also chosen to make Cottonwood Garden their home.  This year I made an effort to photograph and identify some of the native insects that live in our garden.

       Our first hive.

The Cottonwood Garden Maternity Ward.

One of the girls enjoying a Cottonwood raspberry flower.

Delicious chives.

     Recently the city of Vancouver announced it's plan to put a freeway right through the centre of Cottonwood garden.  It reminds of a song. 
Big Yellow Taxi
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

They took all the trees and put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees (please!)

Joni Mitchell (1970)

     Please help us save Cottonwood Garden by going to our facebook page here and signing our petition to the city here.  To view a more detailed description of the garden and it's future go to Gardens threatened.  I will end this post with a few parting photos of Cottonwood Garden.  By this time next year they may have paved paradise and put up a parking lot.


Please save my home.

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