Welcome to Living Offgrid!

It has been 3 years since we arrived in the Maritimes and a few months ago (May 2017), we were able to move into a home that is off grid. 

This has begun a journey to living sustainably. 

I invite you to follow along on some of the projects, day-to-day challenges, and rewards that we encounter. 

 

The Garden

Top soil delivered.

One of our first priorities when we moved in was to build a garden. We wanted to grow our own vegetables. A load of topsoil was ordered and delivered. Then came the task of spreading the soil so it was 10" to 12" deep and covered an area of about 20'x20'. 

We then built a fence around the area to keep the deer, rabbits and raccoons out. 

It's starting to look like a garden!

Some plants were started indoors.

We divided the garden with some walking paths to make reaching areas easier.  We put straw down on the walkways to help keep mud off our shoes and to accent the paths.

The next step was to plant the garden. We made a sketch on paper first of what to plant where, and how many plants in each area so that they wouldn't get over crowded as they grew. 

Get to know what growing zone you live in. We are in "hardiness zone" 6b. Depending on what zone you are in, certain plants will do well whereas others will not. We are fortunate as zone 6b has a fairly long growing season. 

We decided on 5 tomato plants, a few beafsteak and the rest being cherry tomatoes. We planted about 20 sweet peas, 20 string bean, some radishes, a long row of lettuce, lots of carrots, 4 cucumbers, 4 zucchini, 3 sweet peppers and 10 strawberry plants. The cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers were started inside. 

Fruit trees

We picked up 3 fruit trees, 2 apple and 1 cherry tree. It would be nice to grow our own fruit as well as vegetables.

You need to have several fruit trees for pollination purposes. Read the information on the label as sometimes they require the same kind of tree (ie. apple) or it could be another fruit tree.  

The digging was pretty tough. The ground is hard packed here and there are huge rocks it seems everywhere I dug. :-/

We hope to get another 4 or 5 fruit trees later this year. I might start digging the holes for them sooner than later. 

After several weeks...

Weeds

It's incredible how well the weeds grow in the garden. It's something that you have to stay on top of or else they get a bit overwhelming. 

Weeds in some areas are obvious but in the lettuce section some weeds blend in with the look of the vegetable but definitely not with the taste. 

Ducks - 4 to be exact

We found a place on kijiji that was selling Khaki Campbell ducklings. These are a cross between a mallard and a duck from the UK. They are known for their egg laying ability. 150-200 eggs a year each! We placed an order for two females.  The fellow said they would be available in a few weeks and if we wanted two females we should take 4 and likely would end up with 2 females. 

Two weeks later and we picked up 4 baby ducks. They were about 1 week old. My goodness are they cute. 

4 little Khaki Campbells

Started construction of the duck pen

Almost finished!

The duck house

The ducks will need a shelter inside of the pen so they can sleep, get out of the weather and also lay their eggs! 

A good rule is to provide a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space per duck. We decided to go with a 4'x5' house. Another important dimension is the entrance which needs to be larger than a chicken house entrance. 14" width is suggested from several articles we read. 

Started on the duck house

After building all the sections of the duck house we carried them over into the pen to assemble. 

The pen was built with removable roof sections for easier cleaning.

Being able to stand up made assembly of thier house easier as well. :-)

We have 3 female and 1 male.

The four ducks seem to be liking their new home! 

I forgot to mention that the ducks have been staying in our home since we got them. The ducklings need to be kept warm as they can't regulate their own temperature until they are much older. 

We got them when they were about 1 week old and were told to keep them around 90C for the first week then drop 5C per week until we are at room temperature. 

That sounds simple enough to do with a brooding light - 250W bulb, however living off grid makes that difficult. We can't use that much power all day for weeks on end.

250W x 24h = 6000Wh (watt hours) a day which is more than we use in a day with lights, refrigerator, small appliances, electronics etc.  

We needed to find another method of keeping them warm. We decided on using hot water bottles. Our cook stove is propane which heats water very quickly. So every 4 hours for the first few weeks we changed the water in the hot water bottles in order to maintain their temperature. By week 4 or 5 we were heating water every 6 hours. 

Female ducks are called hens and male ducks are drakes. You can no tell the difference until they are at least 5-6 weeks old. 

Ducklings don't quack they whistle. When they are around 5 weeks or older the start of quacking can be heard. Female ducks don't actually quack just the drakes do. The females make a different noise that's hard to explain but it's not a quack. 

Another difference is that the females bill turn a greeninsh colour whereas the males are more yellowish. 

Turns out we have 1 quacker and 3 with greenish bills! That's great news. I was worried that we would have only males. That would mean no eggs and we would have to do this all again!

Finishing touches

Cut strips of fencing about 16" wide and bent at 90 degree angle along the length about 3" in. Fastened this to the bottom of the fence on the outside. This should prevent weasels, foxes etc from digging underneath the fence. 

The ducks are spending their first night outside. It's suppose to be a low of 16C which is still fairly warm. They will be 8 weeks old in a few days.

Their pen is ready and they definitely did not want to come in tonight. They spent most of the daylight hours outside for the past week and really seem to love it. 

Ducks get their own swimming pool

We built a raised platform to accommodate the drain we put in the pool to fascilitate water changes. The 5' diameter kids pool seems to work well. The ducks love it. 

Drain installed in pool

I installed a kitchen sink drain basket assembly into the kids pool we bought. This will make draining the water an easier job. I just cut a hole the proper size and installed the drain basket assembly. I then plumbed in the 1-1/2" ABS drain so it drains several feet away from their pen. 

Duck gender ?

I have some surprising news. I was talking with a few friends tonight about our 4 ducks and that 3 were females and 1 was a male. They asked how do you know?  I told them the bill colours are slightly different and I also added that male ducks quack more and the females are much quieter (That's what I heard anyways). 

It turns out that this might not be true. I am finding conflicting info on the internet. Imagine that lol.  A few places say the females are the ones that quack. Also the bill colour information that I recently found suggests that the three with the same bill colour might actually be males!

So currently there is a possibility that we have 3 males due to their quieter nature,  bill and leg colour. Wow! 

I will dig a little deeper and keep you posted. Praying that we have one female for sure if not more. 

Bzzzzzzzzzzz

We picked up our new hive which we were told contains 12,000 - 15,000 bees. It is a "top bar" hive which is different than the conventional Langstroth style.

Raising bees will hopefully help out with the bee population, help pollinate our trees and plants as well as provide us with real honey!

Got our beeeeees today :-)

It is very important to level the hive both ways. We checked to see what would be needed to get it level. 

Positioning of the hive

The entrance to the hive must be facing south. The hive can't be moved more than one foot a day if it's being moved less than 3 miles! So pick your location before you get the hive home and set it up.

Bees travel up to a 3 mile radius when looking for food (flowers). That's a 27 square mile area they cover!

The bees also need a supply of water close by as they drink a lot. If there is no natural water supply  close than set up a barrel and place some corks in it. The corks float and will allow a place for the bees to land to have a drink. 

Our Pup :-)

She's cute but don't mess with her.

Battery maintenance

As mentioned we live offgrid. That means we have no connection to the electrical utility.  The power we need  is provided by our 9 solar modules and battery bank. There is a charge controller which monitors the charging of the batteries and there is an inverter that converts DC into AC power to run our lighting and appliances. 

Our stove, and hot water production are powered by propane but basically everything else is electric. 

Living offgrid requires you to think a little differently about your power usage. If the batteries are full and it's going to be sunny for the next day or two then my wife will make bread with the bread maker. If the weather forecast is not great for the next day or two she might wait until the weather is more promising. 

We have appliances such as a clothes washer and refrigerator that are highly efficient and are easily run by our system. 

The same reasoning goes into doing laundry. If the weather is looking good we will do a load or two of clothes however if it's not great we will try and hold off. 

Sometimes we run low on power and tomorrow's forecast is rain so we have to run our generator to charge up the batteries.  When you are running the generator for a few hours for charging that's a good time to run the washing machine or bread maker. The generator we have is sufficient to run a few appliance and charge the batteries at the same time. 

So... back to the batteries

The style we have are flooded lead acid. It's not new technology but it works well and it is cost effective. Most of the battery banks out there are flooded lead acid with some being sealed AGM batteries. AGM batteries are still lead acid technology but don't require any maintenance. 

Our batteries on the other hand require a bit of maintenance every 4-6 weeks. We need to check the level of the electrolyte and add distilled water. At the same time we should be cheking the specific gravity of the batteries and recording it. 

Today we replaced the battery caps with "water miser" caps. These are pretty cool. As the hydrogen and oxygen gasses pass through these new caps there is a catalyst inside that allows the gasses to recombine and reform back into water. The water then drips back into the battery. This reduces the water you would need to add by about 50%. This reduces the amount of hydrogen gas being emitted and also cuts down on the amount of corrosive gas coming from the acid in the batteries. 

 

Rainwater collection

We bought a rain barrel from the local hardware store. We also got some eaves trough to put on our shed to help catch rain water. 

Space heating

We heat our home with a highly efficient wood stove. It is a Pacific Energy and has a 10-12 hour burn time.  This place came with about 5 chords of wood that was split and piled. That was a nice bonus :-)

We heated with wood for 15 years back in Ontario and we love the heat provided by a wood stove. It is a lot of work however and there are spiders to contend with. I'm not a fan of spiders. 

Duck days of summer

Daily duck pool party.

Our four duckies loving the pool party! :-)

The water just beads off their feathers. It's pretty neat to actually see. 

They spend hours everyday in the water then preen afterwards. Yayyyy for happy ducks!

 

Deck for ducks

The ducks were having a difficult time getting into and out of the pool. Sometimes they fell several feet to the ground and didn't seem to like that. We decided to build a small deck off the pool to make things easier :-)

Garden update

Garden is doing awesome.

The garden is doing awesome. I was away for a week for work and my wife has taken great care of the garden and ducks. 

I was surprised to see how much everything had grown. 

We had our first cucumber from the garden with lunch. We also had a zucchini with our supper! Wow pretty cool. Sometimes it's just the small things...

Sleepcamp Construction

Cinder blocks will support the beams

We decided to build a sleep camp / office and storage building as our home only has one bedroom. We have company coming later this summer and early fall and want to have a comfortable place for them to sleep :-)

I also need an office as I am currently using the kitchen table :-/

Beams and floor joists

We started framing and the first job was to build the three beams. We used 2x10 pressure treated lumber. The beams are 24' long and three ply construction. 

We then started on the floor system using 2x8s. 

Then came the tedious job of insulating the floor with 2" styrofoam board. We are planning to heat the building and want everything well insulated. 

Half done insulating floor :-)

The Walls

The walls go up pretty quick. 

Busy few days

Almost all closed in

Put the trusses up then sheathed the roof. Wrapped building with typar and installed the two windows.  

More fruit trees

Picked up two pear trees today. They were on sale and who doesn't like pears :-)

Also got a lilac tree for the beeeees

The canning begins

Picked 5 zukes for salsa and 2 cukes for supper

My wife got a cool recipe to make zucchini salsa. So we picked some zukes and a few other ingredients and started. 

Boiling the jars

All the jars and lids must be sterilized.  If you don't jar properly you can get very sick when eating the food later. 

Be sure to use proper canning practices. :-)

Pre salsa mix

Shredded zucchini, onion, peppers, tomatoes, vinegar and some spices. 

Canned string beans

String beans from our garden with vinegar, water, red chilli flakes and garlic. Mmmm can't wait to try them. 3 weeks of waiting :-/

So it's been about 4 weeks. We tried the canned beans yesterday and wow were they awesome! Very tasty and they have a bit of bite to them. 

Bee problems

The last three times I checked the hive there seemed to be less and less honey. We were concerned and emailed the fellow we bought the hive from. He said often in late summer the bees eat some of their honey as there is a bit for a lull between blossoms and the golden rods would be out soon. We checked the hive and there were a couple of hornets and quite a few dead bees on the ground under the hive so we closed some of the entrance holes for a day to get them back on track. Then, the next time that we checked there were a bunch more dead bees in the bottom of the hive. Like 3000-4000 more dead bees! Very sad as we are trying to improve the bee population. We suspect they are starving as they have eaten most of their honey so we started putting sugar water in the hive to help them. It's a 1:1 mix of water and sugar. They drink a mason jar of it every day!

 

Bee update

The bees have been drinking a mason jar full of sugar water every day for 6-7 days. Today when we checked them there was a 1/4 left in the jar which was a good sign. We put a full fresh jar in and will check again tomorrow. The next day the jar was basically full which is good as bees will drink it only if there is nothing else. The goldenrods and some other wild flowers are now in bloom providing pollen for the bees. Hopefully they make some honey and their population grows in number again. 

We have a "bee winterization" course this weekend. Looking forward to learning how to prepare the hive for winter and hoping to find out what happened to ours. 

Bee update... 2

The course on harvesting honey and winterizing the hive was very informative. Apparently the seasoned bee keepers think hornets had robbed our hive of honey causing the bees to starve. That makes sense as we have seen many hornets around the opening to the hive. Apparently when there is a lull in flowers the hornets will go after hives for food. Hornets will kill bees!

Those little buggers!!! 

Bees can only sting once and then the my die but hornets can sting multiple times and don't die afterwards. 

Come to think of it there had been a lot of hornets around our garden this year. They are eating the strawberries!

Ive went to pick some ripe strawberries a few times to only find the undetside eaten. At first I assumed it was a mouse or chipmunk but a few that I picked actually had several hornets buried halfway in, enjoying some fresh strawberry jam. 

The bee gurus told us to close the entrance down to one opening from 3 as the bees can better defend a single opening. We also were told to flip these bottom boards over to eliminate the chance of hornets getting in. Wow that would have been nice to know a few weeks ago. 🙄

 

Duck update! 🙃

So after a long discussion, my wife and I decided to let the two more aggressive males free. A friend that was helping us construct the sleep camp offered to help us separate the two males from the other two ducks we were keeping. You should probably know that wherever one of the ducks go all the others follow. They are  inseparable. After 15 minutes of stealthy maneuvers we were able to get Evinrude  and Splash separated from Chicky and Baby (the smaller male). 

We then brought the two drakes outside of their pen and planned on throwing them gently but effectively into the air.  I threw Evinrude first wishing him a happy and long life and he flew maybe 50ft then did a somewhat controlled crash landing. My friend looked at me just as surprised as he was about to throw Splash. I said giver and maybe Evinrude will take off after him. Darren threw Splash who did the same thing but slightly more gracefully than his brother, landing somewhat in his feet. My wife was watching this entire ordeal unfold and was even more surprised than us. 

We all looked at each other in disbelief and wondered what to do now. My wife said "maybe their chest muscles aren't developed enough as they have never flown before. "

We kind of agreed and then my friend says that he hunts ducks and those seem at least a pound or so heavier than the mallards he shoots. "Maybe they're to fat to fly!" I was a little insulted 🙃

So now there are two male ducks 50' from their pen and just around the corner is our "prey driven" dog... tied outside on a very long rope. 😳

The ducks turn and start walking back towards the pen. My wife says how are we ever going to catch these two and put them back in their pen. I had visions of this taking hours and us still trying to round them up tonight. The two drakes walked around the pen and their mother followed them telling them to get back in their pool. I opened the gate to the pen and Steph kept up the pace behind them. They walked right back into their pen and jumped into the pool. I closed the gate and went back to work on the sleep camp in disbelief of the last 30 minutes. 

☺️

Vegetable Harvest

Last week green tomatoes everywhere. This week red tomatoes everywhere! Picked several dozen and some nice carrots. Going to do some canning and pickling tonight. 

Weather warning!

It looked like we might be in the path of hurricane Jose. Several of the weather models showed it having serious effect on southern Nova Scotia. 

We spent the better part of an afternoon getting things ready as far as storm preparations go. We secured tarps around our straw bales. We took down our gazebo tent that is next to the duck pen. Put away the deck furniture - plastic adirondack chairs, and table. We also put a 8" cinderblock ontop of the bee hive for extra weight and rachet strapped the top down so it wouldn't accidentally blow open in the forecasted 110+ km winds. I also finished installing the soffit and facia on the sleep camp so the wind wouldn't blow down the stuff I had already done. 

October Update

Beautiful fall colours

It's been a beautiful but busy October. The leaves have changed colours and many are vibrant reds and oranges. Recently we have had some significant wind and rain and a lot of the leaves have fallen off the trees. 

We started to build a greenhouse. I will post some pictures later today. 

We built a tiltable ground mount to hold six 250W solar modules. This will be the array for the sleep camp. 

And... wait for it... Our female duck Chicky laid her first egg! 

She actually laid 5 eggs in the past week!

Tiltable solar mount

Solar mount - not quite finished yet

We designed and built this ground mount to hold our solar modules. It's is made of pressure treated lumber so it won't rot. It will hold (6) 250W solar modules which will provide the power for the new sleep camp. 

Greenhouse

Our greenhouse, excited for spring

We started to build our greenhouse. It's 8ft by about 16ft. We are hoping to grow peppers and melons along with some herbs inside. We will also be using it to get a head start on germinating the seeds that we will plant in the garden. 

The lumber yard dropped off the material and the corregated plastic is frosted instead of clear.  We installed a few pieces and have decided to get the clear stuff instead. 

Chicky is a star!

A duck egg... finally lol

Chicky has been laying eggs for the past week! Here is the largest one so far. The first few were smaller than chicken eggs but we have read that is common for the first couple.  This last one is the size of a large chicken egg. 

Duck palace reno

Two foot height extension!

I'm not a big fan of crouching over to walk in places or worse yet work somewhere that's not tall enough. I also have a lower back issue and had it with the 4' height of the duck pen. We built 24" extension knee walls. I then installed the wire fencing on the sections. My wife and I removed the roof from the duck enclosure and installed the "knee walls" and then reinstalled the roof. Everything took about 5-6 hours. Now I don't have to crouch around and if we wanted we could get some emus!

Greenhouse

Suntuf clear panels on greenhouse

The suntuf clear panels arrived and we removed the frosted fibreglass ones and installed these polycarbonate ones instead. These are going to work much better.  I'm excited to get it done then start on the inside. 

Jan 2, 2018 Update

Snow then more snow

The snow fall has been relentless

It is January 2nd. Happy New Year everyone. A few weeks a go we had no snow. Today there is almost 2 feet. It hasn't stopped snowing for the past week or so. We haven't really got a major storm but it's been snowing continuously for many days. The weather network is saying we are going to get a "monster" storm in a few days as a N'or Easter is brewing off the north east coast of the USA. 

Frozen duck pool

Whaaaaaat happened

The ducks still want to go onto the pool side of their palace. They lay on the frozen pool and quack lol. 

Chicky is still laying eggs! Not one every day but a few in the last week. 

Tarped the duck palace

Winterizing the duck pen.

We put a tarp around the duck enclosure to keep the wind out and also the snow drifts. Poor duckies gonna be introduced to winter soon. (This was early December)

Our winter garden

Missing the garden and it's only Jan

The garden was a bit of work last summer but I miss having it. Looking forward to planting it this spring. We also have to finish the green house come early spring and also build a second garden. 

Propane Generator

Our generator :-) OffGrid model

We are very thankful for our generator. It has come in handy many times in the past several weeks. It's been snowing so much and no sun and we've run out of battery power several times.  The generator charges up the batteries for us when the sun isn't cooperating. 

Our Woodstove

Thawing out water dispensers

This is another thing we are very grateful for. Our Pacific Energy wood stove runs good. We recently changed the door gasket as it is several years old. It is suppose to be airtight otherwise you will burn more wood and not be as efficient. 

Notice the water dispensers thawing out for the ducks. These are the small ones that go inside their house at night. We have larger 3 gallon ones that are for them during the day and go inside their pen. 

Every 2-3 hours we have to go check on the duck water to ensure it hasn't froze. If so we replace it with a thawed container and bring in the frozen one. 

Mid February 2018 Update

It's been a crappy few days. A mink got into our duck enclosure and killed all four of our ducks.

We did the best we could when we built it to keep it safe for them. The mink dug underneath the perimeter wall to get in. We had put a 12" wide strip of 1" X 1" welded wire fencing on the ground around the enclosure to prevent animals from digging under the wall.

We will have to look at putting patio slabs around the perimeter in the spring to prevent another similar situation. 

We are pretty sad about it as they were like pets. Chicky, Baby, Evinrude and Splash will definitely be missed. 

 

My truck...

 

I was in an accident a few weeks back. I was travelling on the highway with a friend. The weather was poor and a oncoming vehicle lost control and came right at us. We swerved to avoid a head on but still got hit pretty hard on the driver's side then ended up in the ditch. Nobody was hurt and we are very grateful for that.  Both vehicles were write-offs.

What kinda is crappy is that I just bought the truck out this past summer when the lease was up. Some good news is that the insurance company settled fairly with us.  My wife and I will be buying another truck this week hopefully. 

On a happier topic...

We picked up some potting soil today and filled our small pots up. They're all ready for later this week when we start planting seeds. 

Soon we'll be planting

Sleep camp...

The bedroom is done in the sleep camp and the bathroom is close to being finished. 

We went with a "Separett" composting toilet. They have a good review and although it was expensive it was cheaper than a septic tank and/or field bed.  

The sleep camp is several hundred feet away from the house so it is too far to connect it to the existing septic system. 

Solar PV Installed

We finally had a chance to install the solar modules on the ground mount we built.  The sleep camp is ready for visitors :-)

Aquaponics...

Aquaponics is pretty cool.  I've been reading a little bit about it for a few years now. It's quite amazing. You have a lower tote or pool or container that houses fish. Above it you have plants growing. The water from the fish gets pumped up to the plants. It is high in nitrates and other nutrients. The plants filter the water and it flows back down into the fish tank. The plants grow 2-3x faster and the fish have clean water with very little maintenance. 

I am going to try a small set up this spring. 

Pepper seedlings :-)

Peppers have sprouted

Peppers were planted a few week ago and they have germinated! 

More planting - yayyyy

We planted broccoli, tomatoes and lettuce seeds today. I also planted two jalapeño peppers. 

Each vegetable needs to be started at different times.  Some seeds take 2-3 weeks to germinate while others take much longer. Some seedlings 🌱 need to be "hardened off" before transplanting outdoors. This means putting the young plant outside for several hours a day for 3-5 days prior to transplanting permanently. 

Some vegetables can be transplanted right after the last frost while for others we must wait several weeks until the soil is warm.

Peppers 🌶 are like this. My pepper plants grew last year but didn't produce any fruit. 😕  Apparently that is because the soil was too cold during a critical time in their growth cycle. 

 

Dutch bucket hydroponics

I mentioned earlier that I was going to try aquaponics but have since changed my mind. I have chatted with a few people and looked into what some of the challenges they mentioned. Apparently it's difficult to be get everything perfect so the fish are healthy and the plant should are thriving. Usually one does well and the other not so much. I'm not sure but this is what I have read in a few places. 

Dutch bucket hydroponics is very cool. Its pretty simple and doesn't need much tweaking after the initial setup. We plan to try 6 buckets for starters. Two tomatoes, two peppers and two cucumbers. 

I will be posting pictures of the setup once we start on it 

April 2018 updates

Vegetables doing well

The tomato, peppers and broccoli are all doing well. We started cucumbers and zucchini during first the week of April. 

We worked more on the greenhouses and built a dog run. Pictures of the greenhouse to follow. Dog run puctures will be posted below. 

Fenced in area for pup

Koda's dog run

We built a dog run. It's about 30 ft long by 12 ft wide. She seems to like it. We are going to build a dog house and put some covering over the one end of the run to provide shade and protection from the rain. She will spend a few hours in there when we go out and can't take her with us. We don't like leaving her tied up on her long rope as there is the possibility of her rope getting caught on something's and also there are lots of coyotes in the area. She could handle herself if there was only one but not if there were several coyotes together. 

Expanding the garden

We will be ordering several trucks loads of topsoil soon. We have an area picked out that we will plant corn and potatoes. We figure a 60' x 20' area will be a good start. 

I'm getting excited for warmer weather. There was no snow last week on the ground and yesterday we woke up to 6" or so. It's hard to start working on garden with that happening. 

We went through about 2.5 to 3 chords of wood this winter. Our stockpile is down about 80%. That will be the next big job to get sorted out when I have a few days. I want to get the wood cut and split before the flies start. We are also building a wood shed this spring. Add that to the already busy list lol 😂. 

Solar PV system changes

The solar system at the house is good but the modules are on the roof which is not recommended for offgrid living.  I have an idea to put a special switch in at the ground mounted solar we have for the sleepcamp. It will be a double pole double throw switch. This will allow me to send the solar power from the new ground mount to either the sleepcamp or to the house system. The sleep camp isn't used all the time and the only thing that is in there other than efficient lighting is a small efficient freezer. The batteries get charged quickly and the charge controller goes to sleep even if its still sunny.  Instead of wasting that energy I will be able to send it to charge up the house batteries which are rarely full. I will post pictures soon of this change. 

Beekeeping 2018

A Langstroth Hive

We went to Waverly today (Apr 25th) to speak with an experienced bee keeper. After some discussion we decided to purchase a Langstroth hive and give it a try. This style of hive has been used since the 1800's. This type of hive should overwinter better than our "topbar" hive which is a very different design when compared to the langstroth.

The hive will have to be put together as everything comes in pieces. We picked up two "supers" which are the larger lower sections of the hive and one upper shallower section. The lower boxes are where the queen lives and the brood are. Brood is the bee eggs, larvae and pupae. The upper box is where they store the honey. Hopefully we will be able to harvest some this year.   Some honey must stay in the hive to provide food for the bees so they can survive the winter. Last fall we weren't able to harvest any honey as there wasn't a lot and we left what was available for them. We think the bees starved over the winter as all the honey combs were empty when we checked on them last and had found they didn't make it through the winter. 

Trying a few new crops!

We planted 4 cantaloupe and 4 watermelon this evening into peat pots. We are hoping to be able to transplant these outside in the next few weeks.  The cantaloupe will live in the greenhouse while the watermelon will be planted in the new garden. 

I spoke with the fellow today about the several loads of topsoil we will need. He will be delivering that soon hopefully. 

Besides potatoes and corn we hope to plant watermelon, blueberries, blackberries and gooseberries. 

 

Will Koda get along with a Kioti?

Kioti nx4510. Hopefully find one used

I have been seriously considering purchasing a tractor. Our driveway is about 1100m long and it needs some regular maintenance along with snow plowing come winter.

Certain sections of the road aren't too bad but others are in rough shape and could benefit from some grading and the removal of some larger rocks. The tractor will also help with gathering and hauling firewood. Hopefully the financing all works out.☺️

 

"Some assembly required"

Langstroff Hive Assembly

I wasn't planning on putting the hive together today as we aren't getting bees until early June. It has been raining all day and as a result my outside work plans got rescheduled. Today is as good a day as any to put the cells together. 😁

Glue and nails.

Assembly was easy peasy!

Finished upper and lowers

I was surprised how well the pieces went together. I glued the parts and pre-drilled a small hole in the locations where they are to be nailed. Hopefully this prevents the pine from splitting. I still have to put 30 frames together which fit into the upper and lowers (10 in each). This is where the combs are made and the honey gets stored. 🐝

Greenhouse floor

Removed plywood floor

I have been thinking about the plywood floor I put down in the greenhouse. That probably wasn't the best idea. I thought it would work out and it was  fairly inexpensive compared to pressure treated decking or two by lumber. What would happen when it had water spilt on it... regularly? I decided to remove it before it got wrecked and put down a gravel floor. 

Gravel floor

"Lots of room"... about 1"

My neighbour, who is an awesome guy, stopped by with his Kioti to make the job go much quicker. He really put his good maneuvering skills to work. 

That was easy!

All done!

One hour later and thousands of black-flies later the gravel was in place, raked and packed.  

New garden

Spreading topsoil

We had three loads of topsoil delivered. That's about 39 cubic yards! That's a job for the Kioti!

Almost done!

Hydraulics make work easy!

We ordered two more loads of topsoil. Total material spread is about 60 cubic yards. The new garden is about 50ft x 30ft x 12" deep. 

My neighbour offered his tractor for us to use! How generous is that!

We got to try out the tiller we bought last summer. It is in good shape and does a great job. Rear tine is the way to go. 

Inside of the greenhouse

Starting to look like we hoped

Worked on the inside of the greenhouse today. Built the main bench on he south side  and a lower bench on the north side for the Dutch bucket hydroponics. 

Deer tracks... already

Deer footie prints!

Someone put deer tracks on our new garden!  I'm thinking they're steaking the area out. I might have to put up a "We're NOT vegetarians" sign. 

Started on Dutch buckets

Installed drains into buckets

I drilled 3/4" holes about 1" up from the bottom of the buckets and installed the rubber grommets. I then pushed in 1/2" PVC insert couplings. 

Perlite

Paint strainers and perlite in place

I bought some Perlite at the store and some paint strainers. I put in the 5 gal paint strainers (fine netting material) then filled with perlite. I then sprayed water on the perlite to wash off most of the perlite dust. 

Piped in the drain

Return line installed

The idea is to have a pump water the plants, that will be planted in the perlite, with a nutrient rich mixture. The drains will let the water out which will flow into a return pipe back to the pump sump tank. 

Strawberries

🍓

We planted 9 strawberries last year in the garden and this year there is 20 or so. 

I thinned out 8-9 of them and transplanted them into hanging baskets in the greenhouse. Maybe this year we could actually eat a few. Last year most got eaten by wasps!

Fruit trees

🍐 🍒

I finally got around to planting the pear and cherry tree. Looking forward to some fresh homegrown fruit. 

The bees came in!

Introducing the new bees

I drove a few hours to Waverly NS to pick up the "nuc" of bees this am. I bought a new bee jacket as well. This one is very well made. 

I loaded the box of bees into my truck. It's important to understand that I put them in the cab of the truck.  It is raining and also it wouldn't be good if it fell over in the back while we were travelling.  

I got maybe 20 minutes of the drive back towards home when I noticed a bee was loose in my truck. Then a few seconds later I nocited another bee then a 3rd. By the time I pulled over and got out there were 4 loose. Wowzers!

I carefully inspected the box and couldn't see where they were getting out. I got back in and drove the remaining 90 minutes keeping a close watch on things throughout the rest of the drive. 

I got home and set the box of bees beside their new hive and let them beeeee for a while. 

About 1/2 hr later I removed the lid to the cardboard "nuc" box and transferred the 4 frames full of bees into the new hive.