Beekeeping {in minnesota}

This upcoming summer will be our 3rd year TRYING to keep some bees alive. If you recall, we bought a nuc from a farm in Wisconsin back in 2015 - Dan even made a sweet video of it all! This last year we finally were able to reap the beekeeper benefits and had a BOUNTY of honey. I thought it would be fun to check in and answer some FAQ on beekeeping! It's such an interesting topic, and honestly we are still learning over here - bees are so fascinating!!! We are excited about another year coming up of beekeeping, and have purchased a second hive! Fingers crossed our OG girls will make it through winter and they can be neighbors! Now, onto the FAQ:

Check out the tab up top "The Hapiary" for more on the 'why' and how I got into it!

Yes, typically. There can actually be two, if one is grandma status and one is a fresh baby. Some hives will keep both on. Typically however, once a queen isn't performing well enough the rest of the bees will kill her. It's called 'cuddle death' because they attack and suffocate her until she dies. ALL THIS after she spent her life GIVING them life. The audacity. The queen is the only one in the hive that lays eggs. Worker bees (also female) CAN lay eggs, but they are unfertilized. So they come out as Drones (more on those guys later).

Yes! She is larger and longer with shorter wings. She blends in well so you need an eagle eye to spot her at times. Some beekeepers will tag the queen with a spot on her back to make it a bit easier. Can you spot her below?!

A drone is a male bee. They are larger in size and protect the hive during the summer months. The queen will start laying drone larva in the spring, and taper off in the fall. Once it starts getting cold out, the girls kick out the boys and leave them to die so they have more room and more resources (honey!) to get them through the long freeze. You can see below some of the capped larva is protruding up (on the right side mainly) making a little dome around the honeycomb...those are drones!

The worker bees determine if they need more drones or worker bees in the hive and make the honeycomb size accordingly. Then, when the queen backs into the hole to lay an egg, she can tell the size and will lay a drone or worker bee depending. ISN'T THAT CRAZY. 

A swarm happens when the queen is feeling too cramped. If there isn't enough room for her to have the lavish lifestyle she craves. What will happen is, she will take half the hive and go find another house (like, the joists in my parents deck - check out this post for THAT whole story!). The other half will hang out at the hive and produce a new queen to rule them all. It's best to prevent a swarm by making sure the queen is happy - adding more hive boxes throughout the summer months.

The first time we extracted honey we tried the 'ol fashioned way. We removed the wax coating on the comb and tried to let the honey drip out. No dice. So then we cut out all the wax to filter out the honey. It worked, but we didn't want to keep doing that going forward because then the bees would need to rebuild the wax each time we wanted a refill. On our second run at it, we bought a small extractor that fits 2 frames. Using this, we cut the wax coating off, then spun them in here and VOILA the honey comes out. We then filter that out to make sure the honey is clean of all the wax/pollen and then WE EAT IT BECAUSE OMG YUM.

Not your typical democratic election. When a hive needs a new queen (either through under performance, death, or swarm) the bees look to the most recently laid larva. They pick out a few fresh baby larva and feed them Royal Jelly. You can pick that up at your local grocery store. JK GUYS. Royal Jelly is fed to all larva for ONLY the first few days. However, queens get them until they cap off. Bees will feed a few larva this and allow them to all turn into queens (usually 3-4) to raise the chances that one works out. See below for what a queen cell looks like:

When the queen is ready to hatch, she comes out of her cell (eating her way out). As queen, her first job is to KILL the other queen cells. Last woman standing wins. LOL Hunger games style. Then, once she's the token queen, she goes on her mating flight. She heads out of the hive and mates with as many drones as she can. After her few days out partying, she spends the rest of her life laying the eggs she fertilized on her mating flight.

In the photo below you can see the three different types of capped larve. At the top, the flat ones are worker bees (girls), towards the bottom of the frame you'll see a few with caps that balloon above the frame - those are the drones. The last is at the bottom, covered in bees and a little hard to see. But that's a queen cell. The guys surrounding it are little nurse bees. Their job is to tend to her majesty the queen.

The first two years I was a beekeeper I didn't wear gloves. Beekeepers typically don't because they are more careful that way, and don't accidentally squish a bee with the added fabric. Over those two years, I was only stung 3 times. All 3 times were my fault, I placed my hand on a bee in the WRONG area - dat booty. Unfortunately, after those stings, my hands were outta commission for a little over a week (more on that below). So I've since started wearing beekeeping gloves, and have yet to be stung.

The bee suit and veil is usually less of bee-sting prevention, and more of a - keep them out of your eye balls and from going up your shirt while you're checking the hive - move. The bees have never become aggressive or hostile while I am checking them. Bees won't sting until they fear the queen is in danger, then they will attack. So, when you're out sipping on bon bons and a bee comes around, just let it chill. It's probably hungry and will move along in no time. If you swat it or aggravate it, it'll likely fight back and take one for the team (queen). Because, when a bee stings, it dies.

I'm not TECHNICALLY allergic to bees. Having a bee allergy means that when you are stung you need to be rushed to the hospital. When i'm stung, the entire area around it becomes V inflamed. My hand grew twice it's size once, which is quite uncomfortable. My mom has had the same reaction. There is evidence that by getting stung regularly you can become less prone to reactions - however I'm not about to test that theory.

The best thing to do when you get stung is to remove the stinger by flicking it out with your nail, and washing it with soapy water ASAP. Then add ice. It (typically) won't really hurt for a few hours, but ICE IT. Take some Claritin, apply some itch cream and DON'T scratch it. Trust me.

If you were one of the lucky friends or family you may have received some honey, honey butter, or creamed honey over the holidays. Congratulations to you! While MahonMade products are not sold in stores, we hope to be selling to the masses this year! Stay tuned for more on that!

Sort of! The queen tapers off her laying through the winter months, and the bees feast on the food they spent all summer collecting. They huddle in a small ball in the hive to stay warm. Bees rotate from the center of the ball to the outside to keep everyone warm throughout the winter.

On a warm winter day (50-60 degrees) if you see dead bees outside of the hive - it's a good sign! It means they are still alive and just did some spring cleaning inside.

Before the deep freeze sets in and temps are staying around 50-60 degrees we start to winterize the hive. We make sure they have enough honey (2 large hive boxes full), and we make sure the hive entrance is reduced. Then, we cover the hive with a layer of cardboard. This is mainly to keep strong winds from entering the cracks between the hive boxes. The ladies do the rest to keep it warm and toasty inside!

Every 7-10 days in the summer we (my mom and I) check the hive. There are a few things we are looking at when we check, but the main item is making sure the Queen is still alive and has enough room to keep her cool. We make sure there are open cells for her to lay, and that she's laid within the last 3 days (or, if we're lucky, we actually spot her). We know if she's laid within 3 days if we find little baby larva. It looks like a tiny tiny white line inside the honey comb. This larva below, is older than 3 days, but you can see the progression from little baby, to large larva, to capped (right hand side) larva. The top left corner is capped honey.

FASCINATING huh?! #THEMOREYOUKNOW! Have more questions?! Comment below and i'll add them to the next round!


Kitchen {the plan}

Let's talk kitchen, because, OMG we are gearing up to finish this puppy off and I couldn't be more excited. The kitchen has come a LONG way. Before it was SO dark - navy painted ceiling, plywood black floors, brown cabinets...the trifecta of greatness.

Really, just a good coat of paint could have livened up that space. We wanted to take it a bit further, and open up the wall leading into the dining room. While also closing up the back area (perhaps a breakfast nook at one point) making it into a laundry/bathroom. The wall opening though - game changer:

 Taking down that wall was one of the first things we ever did to the space.

And a few throwbacks looking into the kitchen:

Some other notable items we have completed in this space: fixing the upstairs leaky bathroom so we could cover up the hole in the ceiling...also, adding more lights and painting the ceiling white. TBT to that delicious navy color...(hi dad!!)

 Oh, and that faux brick. My mom and I were standing in the kitchen one day, likely making sure my dad wasn't going to fall off the ladder, and we just started chipping away at the brick. Little did we know there was 4" of dead space back there. Anything to add a little SF to this baby!

 So, now we are here, left with a blank space and READY to get 'er done.

 We have been scheming this room since before we even got the keys to the house. We had a longer than normal closing, so I ordered ALL the tile samples and ALL the cabinet door samples to wrap my head around what we wanted to do here. Initially we were going to order all new cabinets. When we were designing the new layout, we kept coming back to the exact same layout that is currently there. Upon further inspection, the cabinet boxes weren't THAT bad, just needed a little TLC, much like my last kitchen. So, during all the demo, we took off the old cabinet doors to paint the boxes in preparation. We plan to order new ones from Cabinet Door World, shaker style. We will paint those ourselves in the spring and FINALLY rid ourselves of the open-cabinet concept life.

As for flooring, we are leaning toward a darker color, like a shade darker than concrete. We found a sample at The Tile Shop that fit the bill (more to come on that). It is ceramic, and has some blue/grey undertones with some variation. Playing off those colors, we are hoping to land on a countertop that is white, with some grey veining to tie it all in together. TBD on if that'll be marble, quartz, or granite...people seem to have ALL the opinions on that.

We both LOVED how the backsplash turned out in my old house, I used a glass tile from The Tile Bar. To make this kitchen feel a little larger i'm thinking of doing a 2x8 versus the typical 3x6 subway tile..and Coastal Dew is speaking to me currently...

OK, need a visual?! Me too...Here we go:

First things first - the FLOORING. We are getting that ordered soon here, along with the heated floors. When we renovated the back (now) bathroom, we removed the radiator that was servicing that area of the house. It actually hasn't gotten TOO cold in that area, but supplemental heat is defiantly necessary (LOL #TBT to frozen pipes over Christmas). We are going to install electric radiant heat pads under the tile for that area and I am SO excited about that.

Here is a break down of what's to come:
  • New flooring (level floors, install radiant heat, lay tile)
  • Install and trim out doorway into bathroom
  • Build cabinet around fridge and chimney stack
  • Paint and hang cabinet doors
  • Replace countertops (install new drawers, new sink/faucet)
5 bullet points doesn't seem like alot, but each item is a BIG item. So, really it's like a million things to do, but we are excited! 

Skim Coating Plaster Walls

As I mentioned in our #housegoalz post a few weeks ago, one of the items on that list was to finish up the two spare bedrooms upstairs. Currently, those two rooms serve zero purpose to us #nokids #noroomies. However, as it turns out, multiple bedrooms are a benefit to future homeowners. In the future these two rooms will likely serve as a guestroom, and an office for Dan. But, there was no rush to finish this project and LOL we still don't have floors in our kitchen, but priorities I guess?! BUT, it was an easy project, and we were just SUPER over that obnoxious red wallpaper. It had to go, like yesterday. So, the plan was to remove the wall paper so we could have our trusty skim-coating team come in and take over.

What is skim coating and WHY did we need it? Well, most of the walls in our house are plaster. Very few have drywall, and some with drywall have since been plastered over by the previous owner. Plaster is secured to walls with lath, the horizontal wood pieces attached to studs, see evidence below (hi mom!):

RIP wall...Layers of plaster are built up on this, and over time cracks can occur (either through foundation shifting or temperature changes...or just life). Most of the corners in our home had signs of cracks, with some hairline cracks along the surface. Because of this, we have had every inch of our house skim coated. It's one of those fun ways to spend money when you renovate a house!!

RIP doorway! Mesh is placed over any cracks, and then skim coated with new plaster. This reinforces the crack and allows for seamless walls once again. A very tedious and skilled process that we handed over to the professionals. We, however, do the prep work.

As mentioned, the two rooms we were to tackle were both lined with wall paper, so it was a toss up on exactly how bad the walls would be. Such great and magical surprises that every homeowner wishes for!

Avert your eyes, this wallpaper was BLINDING. And OMG that carpet, right?

To get the process rolling, we first needed to remove the wallpaper and see wassup underneath. The first room we tackled was the 'white' room. The wallpaper came off in the smallest little aggravating chunks. It seemed in both rooms, that the exterior walls were the worst, and the interior walls were a bit easier to rip off. However, still V time consuming. 

We used buckets of hot water as well as a spray bottle with hot water (and some fabric softener) to loosen the glue behind the wallpaper. We'd drench the walls in water, wait a minute. Drench them again, and then try to scrape it off using a plastic scraper (metal would have damaged the plaster).

After about 10 hours working on the white room, removing wall paper, we started losing steam. So we moved onto the other room, the 'red' room.... SO much easier. These pieces came off in full sheets. Such a relief from the work the first room took.

The speed of the red room reinvigorated us to finish the white room. And after a week of peeling wall paper, we had two rooms void of any paper!

Dan: We're Done!
Me: Now it's just the glue we need to get off
Me: This film needs to go
Me: We just need to scrub the walls off with hot water 
Me: Otherwise plaster won't stick
Me: :)

We used hot water and a scrub brush/cleaning pad (like what you'd clean a dish with) to scrub off the glue. We were able to get all the glue off in the Red room after 2 nights of scrubbing.

No such luck on the White room. After another 2 nights of scrubbing, we threw in the towel and added it to the scope of the skim coaters. #knowyourlimits

Then, they got to work!

It took them 3 days to skim coat both rooms, and remove the popcorn ceiling in the white room. I asked them to keep the floor covering on, because once they left I rolled in (PUNNY) to start painting, and we all know i'm not the CLEANEST of painters. When you paint over plaster, you first need to use a primer. So, one coat of primer, two coats of paint on all the walls/ceilings. Finished ALL three coats Friday night after work #partyanimal.

In case you didn't know what painting looks like ^^ I GOT CHU!!

That same weekend I worked on the base trim, painting and adding quarter round. Why did we need quarter round YOU ASK? Well, methinks that when the carpet was installed in the bedrooms, they took out the old quarterround to secure the carpet...leaving a huge gap between the trim and the floor and it just looked...bad.

Fun Story (LOL JOKES), I started working on the trim and was actually EXCITED to do it. I'm trying to work on my trim skillz this year (but who isn't AMIRIGHT)...that is until my compressor just up and DIED on me. Which means my nail gun was USELESS. Nail guns, just FYI, are crucial to trim work. I COULD have gone and rented a nail gun, instead I thought i'd torture myself and nail the trim in BY HAND. 

Anyways, now i'm on the lookout for a new nail gun, preferably a battery powered one so I don't have to lug a compressor EVER AGAIN #trustissues 

At least it looks good?!

White Bedroom AFTER:

Red Bedroom AFTER:



All that's left for these rooms is to install new windows, and re-do the closets. Otherwise, we are ready to add furniture!!