Preparing Top Bar Hives For Winter

Helping bees close up shop for the winter is one of my seasonal chores. This year my husband even helped! I am really proud of him; he has always been supportive of my bee habit and loves to sing the praises of bees, but never really wanted to get too close for fear of getting stung. He even winterized a hive all by himself! One step closer to being a big happy beekeeping family.

I have two Kenyan Style Top Bar Hives (or kTBH) at my parents’ house so we decided we should have taco night, the boys would get Grammie and Grampy time and I would get my bees hunkered down for winter.

The process to do two hives probably takes a whole 30 minutes from start to finish. You need your hive tools, I keep them all in a tool box. Specifically, a hive tool or small pry bar (I used a flat head screwdriver since my hive tool grew legs and walked off), bee brush, stapler, 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut to the size of your TBH, a bowl, knife, and straw.

Start by removing your lids and stapling the hardware cloth around the rim so it will overhang onto the sides of the hive. I did this my first year beekeeping and I leave it on year round. Also remove your observation window to see how far the girls have gotten and where you need to start prying up the bars to slide in your follower board.

Hives

Hives ready for winterization.

Remove any started or unfinished comb. The goal here is to have that follower board right up next to the last full bar of honey comb.

Unfinished comb

Small unfinished comb.

Move the follower board up to the last comb and be careful not to squish any of your ladies. Use your bee brush or a gentle hand. Neither my husband or I wore bee suits for this hive manipulation as our bees are docile.

The comb you collect here will most likely be full of uncapped honey. Cut it off the bars and place it in your bowl and share with your family. To be clear on one thing. We only harvest our honey once a year, in the spring time. NOT the fall. The bees eat their own honey all winter and in the spring after the nectar sources have returned in our area, we take what they didn’t use during the winter.

Comb

More unfinished comb.

Stuff the empty bit of the hive with straw. And I mean STUFF IT IN THERE! I used at least a 1/4 of a bale of straw just for this tiny little bit of empty hive. The straw acts as insulation. While you are at the straw stuffing, stuff a bunch into the underside of your lid. More insulation and it also helps to wick away moisture that the bees will produce keeping their queen warm.

Pack with straw

Stuffing straw

Now simply replace your lid and staple down the excess hardware cloth around the outside of the hive. Replace your observation window and ensure that it is totally secure. It is not a good thing when your window blows off in a storm and its a few days or weeks until you find it has fallen off.

TA-DA! Bees are all cozy for the winter!

More bee posts to come so keep on the look out for them. Happy Beekeeping!

Observation window

View from observation window.

Homemade Applesauce

 

This year my family got together and made applesauce for the first time. We had not only 2 bushels of FREE apples, but we also had a free day this weekend to make SAUCE. Happy Dance. And by “free day” I mean, “We are already canning 40 lbs of beef this weekend so we might as well …”

Funny how everything has to come at once. We had planned on doing the applesauce, then we got that faithful call from the meat processor that our steer was ready for pick up. All blessings of course … we have meat for our freezer and tasty applesauce for the dead of winter. The work is totally worth it. Plus you get the added bonus of family time, and passing traditions down through the generations.

No extra acid was used in our recipe, you can add lemon or citric acid, however some claim that it causes an off flavor so we opted out. Sugar is an optional add in too, it all comes down to taste. Since the babies would be the main eaters of the applesauce we chose to not add sugar. The apples we had were a mix of lord-knows-what varying in texture, size, color, and acidity. Our end product had enough acid that we were comfortable skipping it and the sugar both, simply for taste reasons and safety, too.

Lets get to it then!

Apples

Acquire your apples. You want a nice mix of sweet and tart apples. We aren’t really sure what kind of apples we ended up with, but we could tell that there were three distinct varieties ranging from tart to sweet and crisp to soft.

Coring and Peeling

Core and peel your apples. You can see we saved our skins and cores and stuffed them in half gallon jars for apple cider vinegar making. Another blog for another time.

Cored and Peeled Apples

A pot of cored and peeled apples ready for cooking.

Apples Cooking Down

Apples cooking down. We worked in batches with two large pots on the stove. Cook them until they are nice and soft and easily mashable.

Mixing applesauce

We used a hand mixer in the pot to “sauce” our sauce. It has some teeny weenie chunks in it. It’s homemade, the perfection is in the imperfection.

Filling Jars

Fill your jars. We use a 2 cup measuring cup to scoop into jars rather than a ladle. We find that we have more control over the lava hot substance, and it takes less trips from the heat source to the jars. Be sure to tap your jars gently to get out all the air bubbles or stick a utensil down into the jars to free up bubbles.

In The Bath

Add your jars to the hot water bath canner. Wait for the water to boil then set your timer for 20 minutes. Remove your jars and let them cool on a towel. The sound of can lids popping is the best sound in the world!

Happy Applesauce Making!