21 06, 2013

Miller Farm Friday – Don’t Wake the Bees

By |2013-06-21T06:10:16-05:00June 21st, 2013|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|1 Comment

A blog by Guest Blogger Chicken Wrangler Sara

We have run out of honey on Miller Farm and our customers are clamoring for more. So Beekeeper Brian checked on the hive furthest from our house and found it to have a super full of honey, which translates to about 50 pounds.

This was fantastic news.  He prepared for honey extraction with great anticipation. Unfortunately, upon opening the hive he discovered a small infestation of hive beetles.  This is not a catastrophic event but needs to be addressed.

hive+beetlePicture source: Naturesnectar

Bees are very clean critters and so placing the supers back on a strong hive would allow the bees to clean up the honeycomb. Beekeeper Brian thought putting the supers next to the strong hive would be sufficient.

However, later that night, Beekeeper Brian decided he could not sleep thinking about those supers being on the ground where other critters, i.e. possums, could get into them. Because he’d recently read that bees do not fly in the dark, he decided to go out and move the supers onto the hive.

What he forgot is that all the bees go into the hive at night to sleep after a busy day of gathering nectar and pollen.

When he opened the hive to add the supers, the bees woke up, too, and they were very grumpy.  He quickly put the supers in place and headed back to the house.

Unfortunately, some of the bees hitched a ride on his bee suit.

Fortunately, as he was standing in the garage surrounded by bees, he remembered the Bee Gone solution he had recently purchased. He sprayed himself in an attempt to remove the bees,  accidentally spraying his face and eyes in the process.

Not a good idea!

He ran into the house hollering for me, but I was in the bedroom asleep. Rachel, however, ran to the kitchen to see what was wrong.  She was afraid he had bees stuck in his hair (which is her worst nightmare).

By the time I arrived, Beekeeper Brian was in the shower, and Rachel was searching for renegade bees in the kitchen.

When I realized what had happened, I headed to the bathroom to see if I needed to get the Epipen.  (Beekeeper Brian can only handle a certain number of bee stings before he has a serious reaction.)

I wasn’t sure what that number was or how close he was to it. He explained that his screams were the result of stinging in his eyes from the BeeGone solution, not bee stings.

I rejoined Rachel in the kitchen to dispatch any remaining bees. Between us we killed three and decided to leave the bee suit where it was, hoping any bees trapped in it would die by morning.

Once Brian had rinsed the Bee Gone out of his eyes, and assessed the bee stings (only three, which is an annoying, but not a serious number) he removed the bee suit and any remaining bees.

Brian and Rachel had a hard time calming down after that.

Me – I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow – it was just another night on Miller Farm.

Moral of the story:  Let sleeping bees lie.

sleeping bee

24 05, 2013

Missing Bees and Bee Whisperers

By |2013-05-24T05:23:06-05:00May 24th, 2013|Friday Free Day, Friday on the Miller Farm|5 Comments

A Guest by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Beekeeper Brian recently purchased four queen bees in hopes of starting four new hives. The queen bees were shipped by mail.

He tracked their exact arrival at the post office – late on a Saturday night. Since there is no Sunday delivery, we went to the post office to pick them up. After a thorough search of the facility, Beekeeper Brian was finally able to locate the buzzing box and bring it home.

He set up four nucs (starter hives) with the new queens. 

For some reason, one queen was not happy with her new palace and left, taking a group of workers with her.

This was a little frustrating. The queen could have gone anywhere with her workers.

A couple of days later, Rachel was standing in the kitchen window. “Dad, I found your missing bees.”

 Bee hive in tree

They had swarmed in the tree in our back yard. 

The problem now was to get them back into their hive. Neighbors came to watch this process. 

Brian and Matt, our son, got out a ladder.  It was not quite tall enough.


Using a different method to capture the rogue hive, Beekeeper Brian set up a swarm trap. We waited.

Nothing happened. The swarm in the tree didn’t change.

Yesterday Rachel went out to check eggs and came around through the front door. “Dad I think your bees are moving into the nuc on the patio.” 

We all went out the back to see. Sure enough, a group of bees was on the front of the nuc.

There’s still a swarm in the tree so Beekeeper Brian isn’t sure if this is a different swarm or if the swarm is moving slowly. Beekeeper Brian told the bees to do whatever they wanted.

This morning the swarm in the tree appeared to be smaller, which made me wonder, is Beekeeper Brian a bee whisperer in disguise?

9 11, 2012

Miller Farm Friday: Bees in the Bonnet

By |2012-11-09T07:36:11-06:00November 9th, 2012|Miller Farm Friday, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Well the inevitable finally happened – I got stung by a bee.

I really can’t blame the bee. It flew into my hair while I was filling the chicken waterer and it got lost. The bee panicked and burrowed into my scalp and stung me.

I understand. I panic when I get lost too so I can feel its pain – literally.

I managed to avoid doing the frantic bee dance and walked quickly to the water hose where I “washed that bee right out of my hair.”

As I continued my morning chicken chores, I had two thoughts:
1. Where are the epipens
2. How long would it be before someone found me if I passed out in the yard?

Fortunately, I did not have the same reaction to the bee sting as Beekeeper Brian so I didn’t need an answer to either question.

Later as Beekeeper Brian was checking my head for stingers, he suggested that I wear a hat or bandana to prevent a repeat of the incident. This was a great idea.

I remembered the bonnets you made for us to wear at Sturbridge Village on the 4th of July a million years ago? I still have one, or at least one just like it and it works perfectly for keeping bees out of my hair. 

So now, if the neighbors did not have enough entertainment before today, they now can watch me doing my morning chicken chores wearing a blue gingham bonnet.

Ah – what a life.

Our other daughter immediately responded:

I am not sure, the bonnet might make things worse. For, as the song goes, don’t women frequently get a bee in their bonnet? Or is that just me to whom that happens?

Either way, I am quite impressed that you still had your Sturbridge Village ephemera. All I have left is fond memories of a picture taken on a canon, with either Sandra Kay or some other random individual.

With our family, you just never know who it might be… friend, foe, fowl, feline or canine.
Cheers, Steph

Interesting to me that both girls remembered the bonnets and not the reading of the Constitution or the fireworks. Which were the reason we originally made the trip!

Steph is correct we did always have a house full. Someone who needed a place to stay or escape or an animal or bird that needed rescued.

That’s why there are so many characters in my stories. Every visitor came with his own backstory which spawned a new story idea for me.

I’d recommend a trip to Sturbridge Village if not on the 4th of July then one of the other seasonal events. It made quite an impression on our children as you can tell.

And, for those of you who might want your own bonnet. has some excellent choices including flannel-lined for winter.


Ever been stung by a bee?

Been to Sturbridge Village? Did you have as much fun as we did/do?

5 10, 2012

Miller Farm Friday – Wax Bees and Bananas

By |2012-10-05T08:17:27-05:00October 5th, 2012|Miller Farm Friday, Uncategorized|2 Comments

For an urban city farm, the Miller Farm produces a wide variety of products. I love the eggs. And, the honey Beekeeper Brian extracts is equally tasty.

Chicken Wrangler email today is about the bees on the farm.

Today has been a bit busier than a normal. I added blood donation to my already full errand list.

 When I returned to the Farm, I discovered an interesting object on my kitchen counter. 

It is a two liter bottle (which I had saved at Beekeeper Brian’s request) which is about a quarter full of clear liquid with what appears to be a banana peel in it.

 This last part was confirmed by the discovery of both ends of the banana peel in the sink. Now being married to Brian for 25 years, I know this is something he has done.

I suspect it has something to do with the bees. Just in case you need a little humor to lighten your day,  any other guesses?

I’ll let you know what this contraption is when I find out.

Then the next morning this Chicken Wrangler email arrived.

A moth trap! 

 Apparently there is a type of moth that takes up residence in bee hives and greatly hinders honey production. They are extremely attracted to the clear liquid in the two liter bottle which is actually a mixture of sugar, water and honey.

If you look closely, you can see the moth mite on the bee’s neck.

The banana peel puts off some gas thing as it ferments that is extremely unattractive to the bees so they are not tempted to join the moths in their final swim.

The banana must ferment for two days so tomorrow the  bottle will go out back near the bee hives. I’ll report back on the success of the “two liter bottle/banana peel moth trap.”


A hive destroyed by wax moths. Note the larva in the honeycombs.
Learn more about the wax moth and bees:

Now I am sure we will all sleep better having solved this mystery. 

~~Sara – who never ceases to be amazed at the wonders her husband discovers

I, too, am amazed at the things Beekeeper Brian can do. Some blog we’ll talk about his fly-fishing skills or his woodcrafting bowls or his dulcimer building skills. A multi-tasking beekeeper-farmer that Brian.

YOUR TURN: Ever found something unfamiliar on your kitchen counter?

28 09, 2012

Miller Farm Friday

By |2012-09-28T09:46:39-05:00September 28th, 2012|Miller Farm Friday, Uncategorized|4 Comments

My latest email from the Miller Farm


 In a feed store parking lot next to trailers full of cows waiting for my chicken feed

Standing two feet from thousands of bees while filling a waterer

And the latest addition:

Laying under a car in my driveway wearing a Vera Bradley floral apron while holding some piece of the car up while Beekeeper Brian puts in bolts.

I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, which is good since nobody else would want it 😉

With talent like this, I’m not sure any one would be able to trade places with Chicken Wrangler Sara.

The following reply arrived from my other daughter (who takes her children to Miller Farm on field trips) minutes later …

One question:  why were the cows waiting for your chicken feed????? LOL

I know three kids (OK, 2 1/2) who would take your life any day of the week…we had a blast!  

Stick my hand inside to get the egg!?

A short exchange this week, but one that raises a great, thought-provoking question: Would I trade my life?

My answer: Not for all the tea in China.

YOUR TURN: How would you answer?