Tag Archives: beekeeping books

New Year. Resolution.

First we had 30 straight days and 21 inches of rain on the orchard terraces (and everything else)….then clear and frost on the beet greens,

frosty beeet

frosty beet

now, snow on the wheelbarrow.


time to muck...

time to muck…

This is supposed to turn to ice later-maybe we have enough elevation to miss out on the ice and just get more snow….

In spite of the rain the terraces have all held up well-I did a bunch of civil engineering to get water to drain and spread out along the terraces in both directions.  The baby trees all seem to be in good shape.

I also graveled Osprey’s roundpen/sacrifice area, and boy has that been a godsend in this weather.  No mud!  None!  And picking out is like cleaning a giant litter box.  It was not cheap but worth every penny, and the horse appreciates not surfing around on slimy mud all winter long.

roundpen footing

round pen footing

The pen is graded away from the barn, and the barn got gutters this summer. Then I put down road fabric which keeps the mud out of the rock so it lasts longer, 4 inches of 3/4 minus gravel, and 2 inches of 1/4 ten (‘turkey grit’) on top of that.  The grit sized gravel acts more like sand but is safer for the horse-she is less likely to eat it and get sand colic.

We finally got our wood burning insert installed in the house-we are as cozy as cozy can be.  It is a Lopi stove-burns cleaner than a pellet stove and takes a big piece of wood-24″.  We also have minisplits to keep the house warm if we leave town or don’t want to build a fire-and the stove will keep us toasty if the power goes out.  We took one chimney down to the roof line and had the other one lined.  Next for the house is a new metal roof.

bring on the wing chair...and a good book!

bring on the wing chair…and a good book!

one down, one lined

one down, one lined

I have had a good rest, and am ready to start the planning and marketing for the upcoming season-I am finding with organic seed you really have to get on it and order early or a lot of the varieties you want get sold out.  This is especially true for potatoes and cover crop seed.  I have ordered a couple of good looking farm books, and my new BCS tractor, and will probably order and build my first green/prophouse this month.

The garlic is up and says we are already on the downhill slide to spring.  The days are getting longer.  But for now, I am happy to see some snow.

winter garlic

winter garlic

Happy New Year, everyone!


beefing up the business side

I have been looking at some really good marketing books lately, in my attempt to beef up, well, the business side of the business.  Here are two I can solidly recommend, and a third that I have in hand but haven’t cracked open yet.  I have it on pretty good authority that it will be a good one.

The first is Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers.  For a first timer like me, this small book is invaluable.  It actually has helped me solve the first year mysteries of what the heck to plant? and how much? by showing me how to build my garden plan backwards from my goals for gross production and (hoped for) annual farmer income, as well as thinking more specifically about how and where to market my veg.  This combined with some market surveying I am about to foist on my friends and family will enable me to make some informed choices on very basic decisions like what seeds to buy and how many.  This is the piece of the puzzle I haven’t found anywhere else, and experienced farmers have had trouble outlining this part as they are working on many seasons of experience and experiments, and I have had the classic problem of being a newbie; I wasn’t asking the right questions.  Now maybe I can.  I will still make plenty of false starts I am sure, but at least I don’t feel like I am basing my first year of business solely on whistling in the dark and copying what I see in other farmer’s fields.  In short, it is helping me identify the niche I am trying to occupy in Portland’s very competitive local food scene, the size of that niche, and plan for it (versus falling into it blindly or missing it all together).  I think this book would be a great reference for the more experienced farmer too, especially one who is trying to expand into new markets or adjust the business plan.  Super helpful.

Next is The Organic Farmers Business Handbook, by Richard Wiswall.  This book breaks down the garden and business plan into manageable chunks with some helpful spreadsheets thrown in to help you tweak your business so you are farming smarter, not harder, and also using holistic management planning to look at the big picture. Efficiency is a part of it, but more valuable is setting up systems to capture the data you need to show you where money is being made in your fields, and where it isn’t, as well as pointing out the quality of life questions that you need to ask and you won’t find the answers to in your bank balance. This book picks up basically where the first one leaves off, and the combo of these two books together I think will be invaluable for me.

The one I haven’t cracked yet is Fearless Farm Finances.  I think this book will be most helpful for me in setting up my Quickbooks program to capture the data I need, with some information similar to Wiswall’s.  It will be interesting to compare them.  I will try to review it more fully once I have actually read it.  I hope to get a bookkeeper involved in the Quickbooks set up too, so I can capture tax and other important info at the same time, and our systems will dovetail for easier communication.

A very good link.

One of the members of my bee group just turned me on to this website, which is a great compilation of all news and information related to bees and beekeeping, condensed and vetted by a person very knowledgeable in the field.  Check it out:

In other news….saw a property this weekend that could be The One.  Still working out funding….and need to research the water situation.  But, great soils (Jory) perfect S-SE aspect, and a location that will work for us.  Finally got a solid count on baby bunnies, and we have 7.  2 black, 4 spotty, and one with perfect Blanc de Hotot coloring (white with a black eye ring).  They are still tucked away in the bunny box but I hope to have pics later this week.

cheers everyone!

Beekeeping Classes in Portland 2012

January is typically the month for garden planning.  Once all of those seed catalogs start arriving I know it is time to start planning for the beekeeping year as well.  Now is the time to build new equipment, rehab old equipment, and research the areas I want to focus on in the coming season, as well as read any new beekeeping books that look promising.  I will include an updated list of resources at the end of this post that might be useful for new beekeepers and those who keep bees in the Portland area.  Check last years postings for a list of books, websites, and other good information for getting started.

My first plan is to start to consolidate my equipment and make things more user friendly and interchangeable (in my household, this means cutting down from four hive systems to two or three).  My foundationless bees are all going into Warre style vertical hives, and I think we will also run a couple of hives in Langstroths (my husband’s preferred method) as well.  Of course, I hope to convert those to foundationless comb over time.  One of my favorite online beekeeping authors, Michael Bush, has consolidated the info on his website into books on foundationless beekeeping.  I haven’t read them yet, but feel confident I can recommend them as I recommend his website all the time.  If you have Langstroth gear, but are interested in keeping bees on natural comb, this might be a great resource for you.  It has useful information for Top Bar beekeepers as well.

warre style hive

So, I am building a few Warre hives for myself, as well as an 8 frame Michael Bush style Langstroth, and hopefully funding the projects by selling off the Top Bar Hives I have (both new and used) on Craigslist.  I hope to build some extra’s that I can use to start small swarms in to either sell or move to the farm, depending on how the land hunt goes.

If you are thinking about keeping bees, now is the time to get your ducks in a row.  If you are ordering nucs or packages, look into placing those orders this month.  If you want to start your colonies with swarms, look into a swarm catching class and start networking with the local beekeeping community.  If you want to take a beekeeping class, look into that now as well, bee schools and classes usually start in February, and here in Portland they fill up fast.  Decide what kind of equipment you want to use, and order or build that now.  April and the bees will be here before you know it!

Here is an exploded view of a typical Langstroth hive with a single deep, a queen excluder, and two honey supers.

exploded view of a typical langstroth set up

Here is a collection of resources for equipment and classes in the area.  Note:  I have not taken classes at all of these venues, so cannot personally guarantee the quality of the classes offered, except for the one I am teaching, of course!

Beekeeping classes in the Portland area for 2012: (check websites for dates and times)

Zenger Farm:  I am teaching beekeeping 101 and a swarm catching class, Tom Lea is teaching a beekeeping 101 and a bee handling class at Zenger this spring.  Class fees are a little higher, but the additional fees go to support Zenger Farm’s great programs, including the Zenger Community Bee Project.  Tom has been keeping bees for years, and helped form the Zenger bee group.

Beethinking:  Matt Reed started a brick and mortar shop this year in Sellwood that specializes in Top Bar and Warre hives, and he usually schedules several classes on Top Bar Beekeeping throughout the year.   Beethinking is a good place to go in Portland for Natural Beekeeping equipment and supplies.  Matt also catches and occasionally sells swarms.

Ruhl Bee Supply:  Ruhl usually hosts several beekeeping classes every spring, as well as classes on Mason Bees.  They tend to fill up very quickly so sign up ASAP.  In the past these classes have been focused on beekeeping in Langstroth equipment, though that may be changing.  The classes I took there were extremely thorough and informative.  Ruhl sells Langstroth equipment, but is also branching out into natural beekeeping supplies and hive bodies as well.  Ruhl sells locally sourced nucs and package bees from California.  They sell out quickly, especially the nucs, so get your deposit in early.

Glen Andresen:  Glen has taught classes for years through the Oregon Department of Sustainability. Classes usually include three visits to Glen’s apiary over the beekeeping season, so there should be lots of good opportunity for bee handling.  Glen is very well respected in the local beekeeping community.

Livingscape Nursery:  Livingscape hosts several beekeeping classes taught by Tom Lea, as well as classes on Mason Bees.  Livingscape carries some beekeeping equipment and supplies.  Livingscape also sells bees in the spring.

Other Beekeeping Classes in the Region:

Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association:  WVBA’s Bee School is Feb 16th, 21st and 25th, at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.

Astoria Bee School:  A comprehensive all day class at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, March 17th.

Friendly Haven Rise Farm:  Beekeeping classes with a biodynamic focus, located in SW Washington.  I believe they offer classes monthly, each month focusing on a different topic.