Friday, June 1, 2018

Blog Map & Posts

General Info:
Why We're Building A Tiny House
Photo Gallery
Solar Array Details
Thoughts On Heating the House
Building With Steel
Thoughts On The Tiny House Lifestyle
House Design Article
Don't Lose Sight Of Your Goals
Financial Reality
Tools & Society
How Your Building Shape Determines Efficiency Of Material Use
Friends & Fellow Tiny House Dwellers
Our Birds

The Land Purchase:

(Jan 1) The Search
(Aug 7) Deliverance (the movie, not salvation)
(Dec 31) End of Another Year

(Nov 28) A Great Property To Look At
(Nov 28) Eureka!
(Nov 30) Time To Show It Off
(Dec 4) An Offer is Made
(Dec 6) Done Deal!
(Dec 7) Scramble Time
(Dec 7) Planning Ahead
(Dec 10) Planning Our First Structure
(Dec 12) Our First Major Bump In The Road
(Dec 13) Get 'em While They're Hot!
(Dec 24) A Rock In The Road
(Dec 28) Extended Contract
(Dec 31) They Actually Found Her

(Jan 2) Loan Papers
(Jan 2) We Now Have An Address!
(Jan 10) Closed!
(Jan 14) The Work Begins
(Jan 19) Here Kitty, Kitty
(Jan 27) Snap, Crackle, Pop
(Feb 10) Howling Good Time
(Feb 16) Good To Have Some Help
(Feb 23) Mi Compadre, Jorge
(Feb 24) Burn, Baby, Burn
(Mar 2) Just A Work Day
(Mar 16) Spring Is Here
(Mar 25, 2013) Groundwork
(Mar 27) X Marks The Spot
(Mar 31) Wait A Minute, Mr Postman

The Build:

(Sep 2) Labor Day Weekend - The Foundation
(Sep 9) The Deck Is Done
(Nov 11) I Love The Fall
(Dec 15) Walls Start To Appear
(Dec 20) Window Framing
(Dec 27) 4 Corners
(Dec 31) Prepping For Roof

(Jan 4) Rafters Ahoy
(Jan 11) Capping The Rafters
(Jan 12) Finishing The Roof Frame
(Jan 19) The Roofing Begins
(Jan 26) Siding Begins
(Feb 1) Exterior Walls And Weatherproofing
(Feb 3) Via Con Dios, Mi Amigo
(Feb 9) Another Side Up
(Feb 14) Happy Valentine's Day, Honey
(Feb 23) Building is Mostly Weatherproof
(Feb 26) Roofing Steel Goes On
(May 3) Siding Goes On
(Jul 7) A Place To Clean Up After A Hard Day's Work
(Jul 13) Tame The Sun
(Aug 16) Electrical Wiring
(Sep 22) Lift 'em Up, Boys
(Sep 29) Ceiling Almost Done
(Oct 5) Ceiling Sheet Rocked
(Oct 14) Revised Electric Plan
(Oct 20) Calm And Easy Weekend
(Oct 24) House Design Article
(Oct 27) Bathroom Progress
(Oct 27) BluePrints
(Nov 2) Trimming The Shower & Enjoying The Woods
(Nov 9) Shelves, Finally!
(Nov 22) Furry Creatures & Fall Weather Is Here
(Nov 24) Bathroom Gets Some Attention
(Dec 8) Peaceful Times Between Cuttings
(Dec 15) Amazing Weather & Great Cookout

(Jan 1) Happy New Year!
(Jan 4) Kitchen Counter Build
(Jan 18) Drywall Going Up Nicely
(Jan 26) Taping & Bedding
(Feb 9) Storage Building Frame Goes Up
(Feb 15) Decking Down On The Shed
(Feb 19) Fridge & Stove Purchased
(Mar 1) Major Layout Changes
(Mar 6) Floor Plan Design Features
(Mar 15) One Wall Done On Storage Unit
(Mar 30) Flooring Installed
(Apr 5) Tongue & Groove Ceiling
(Apr 14) Cistern Has Arrived
(Apr 27) Really Productive Saturday
(May 4) Kitchen Sink Installed
(May 15) After The Rains
(May 15) I Love Our New Electric Company
(May 25) North Wall Sided
(May 31) 1st Window Trimmed
(Jun 14) Bathroom Wall Sided
(Jul 6) Sleeping In Style
(Jul 19) Still Working On The Storage Building
(Aug 2) Closed-Loop Shower System
(Aug 2) Cistern Set In Place
(Aug 16) Progress On The Kitchen
(Aug 23) IKEA Furniture and Microwave
(Sep 7) Kitchen Counter Finished
(Sep) 13 Kitchen Appliances Installed
(Sep 20) Bathroom Door Hung
(Sep 26) Builders Are People Too!
(Oct 18) Furniture Additions
(Nov 25) Happy Thanksgiving
(Dec 6) Power Pole and Meter Base Set
(Dec 22) Power System
(Dec 22) Solar Panels
(Dec 22) Christmas

(Jan 3) Starting the New Year!
(Jan 10) Bathroom Window Framed In
(Jan 24) Some Progress on Siding
(Apr 24) Tiny House Village at Earth Day 2016
(May 2) And The Rains Came Down
(May 9) Solar Array Details
(May 15) Windows Framed
(May 15) Composting Toilet Bench Built
(May 22) House Painted
(May 30) Kitchen Backsplash
(Jun 6) Cool Breeze :)
(Jul 4) Let Independence Ring
(Jul 10) Plumbing The Toilet
(Jul 19) Free At Last
(Jul 31) Roof Finally Finished
(Aug 5) 3 Year Anniversary and 1st Boarder

(Feb 27) Enjoying the New Year
(Mar 12) Beekeeping Prep
(Apr 23) Bees! Bees! Bees!
(Nov 11) Building Front Deck
(Dec 2) Laying Water Line

(Jan 5) Wall-Mounted Envi Heater Installed
(Jan 7) Heater Follow-Up and New Cabinet

Sunday, January 7, 2018

(Jan 7) Heater Follow-Up and New Cabinet

Happy to report that the new heater (which had been running for about a week) was working fine when we came to check on the place today. The temperature in the house was pleasant and noticeably warmer than outside. Also, checking our electric service, it looks like the heater was costing us about $1/day to run 24 hours. I left the unit on high since outside temps were in the teens and 20s throughout the week. That burned about 10 KWHrs of power per day at 10¢ per KWHr. Very affordable, especially considering that I could add a couple of solar panels to offset this in the future.

To celebrate the new IKEA that opened up close to our Arlington house, we picked up a cabinet for our dishes and glasses. We really haven't been happy with storing the plates and bowls under the Berkey water filter and the glasses in a drawer. This will give them a permanent home. I think it looks pretty nice. :) Kim has always loved the green version of this cabinet but we both agreed that the grey would match the decor better.

IKEA Display Cabinet with dishes

Very happy to report that our bees are surviving the winter. I went out back this past week and checked on them when we had a break in the weather. All of the hives are hunkered down and waiting for Spring. Given that we're on month 10 of our 1st year of beekeeping, I'm just really happy to have any alive this far along. :) I'm already planning to set out traps early this Spring to see if we can catch some wild swarms. They're more aggressive than the European bred bees but they seem to have great production and survival skills.

We will likely also split 1 or 2 of our current hives in early summer, again from the wild caught stock from last year. I will try my hand again at rescuing bees from contacts through the Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association although that venture did not pay off last year. My election to the board as VP of the bee club this year was an unexpected surprise. They really are a great group to be associated with and I'm looking forward to a new year of learning how much I really don't know about bees!

Hoping for better weather in the coming weeks. I like being out here in the winter, I just don't like it rainy and freezing! The birds have seemed extra appreciative of our feeding efforts this winter. A new feeder stocked with finch food has brought in more birds than ever. What a horrible way to spend a winter day - hanging out with your wife in your Tiny House in the woods, drinking hot tea and watching the birds and squirrels play outside your window. It's a hard life but someone's got to suffer through it. :)

Friday, January 5, 2018

(Jan 5) Wall-Mounted Envi Heater Installed

In preparation of getting city water lines run into the house, we decided we needed to have some kind of constant heat available so that the pipes wouldn't freeze and break. Space heaters have such a bad reputation for overheating and catching fire, we thought that a lower powered wall heater would be prudent. Envi brand heaters have been around for a long time and seem to have a good reputation. There are multiple safety features that minimize the risk of a fire. We ordered one and got it installed last week just in time for an arctic blast that sent nighttime temps into the teens and daytime highs into the 20s. Let's take a look!

Envi Wall-Mounted Heater from

Installation was very straight forward. The unit comes with a template that you put up against the wall so that you can mark the mounting screw locations. Our biggest challenge was where to mount it and where to get power from. I must say, on my next build, I will be doubling or tripling the number of electrical outlets. You can just never have enough available!

That said, we decided to mount the heater on the side of the storage cabinet where our bar is located. It's central location to the room would ensure even heat throughout. The power for the lights in that cabinet are supplied by the same outlet under the composting toilet housing that runs the exhaust fan for the toilet. Both the fan and the lights for the cabinet are under 10 watts so there's plenty of juice left for the 475 watt Envi heater.

The plug for the Envi heater is pretty large so passing it through the cabinet wall required cutting a pretty large hole. The only hole saw I had with me that weekend was 2", larger than I needed but big enough to do the job. We located the hole so that only the bottom crescent would hang below the heater itself, just enough room for the electric cord to fit snug. The balance of the hole would now be hidden behind the unit itself. At 8" off the floor, I doubt that anyone will ever see it tucked up under the unit anyway!

Cutting through 2 layers of our IKEA cabinet proved to be the biggest challenge with my dull hole saw. I'm afraid that it's seen too many steel studs in it's past. I did manage to get through without catching the cabinet on fire though it was smoking pretty good a couple of times. lol How ironic would that be, to catch the house on fire while installing a safe space heater!

Attaching the unit to the wall was simple. There are mounting clips that screw into the mounting surface that the unit hangs on. A set screw allows you to secure it to one of the mounting clips so that it can't fall off of the wall. There is also a safety switch inside the unit that a mounting clip activates so that the unit can't operate unless secured in place. One other feature I like is that it has an ambient light sensor that dims the "ON" light at night. Nice touch for those of us that are sensitive to lights poking us in the eyes in the middle of the night. lol

Once through the outer walls of the cabinet, cutting through the back of the unit and through the wall into the toilet enclosure was much easier. I just had to be careful of placement to make sure I didn't hit a stud in the bathroom wall. The cord for the heater is about 6' long so I had no trouble reaching the outlet once through the wall. I did seal the hole up good around the cord after I passed it through. It wouldn't be pleasant if the toilet odors started creeping into the living room through the cabinet! It's not that our composting toilet doesn't smell, but the 3" exhaust fan does a great job of directing the odor outside and helps dry everything out.

Heater mounted on wall of cabinet. Cord goes into the cabinet and through the bathroom wall to get power. 

There was a black unit available but we decided that a $3 can of flat black paint was better than paying $20 extra for EHeat's shiny black unit. Besides, we'll be able to come close to matching the Black/Brown color of the cabinet this way. Never understood why companies make color a factor when setting pricing. If one color is actually more expensive to make, average the cost with the other colors and set your pricing even across the board. It all works out in the end and consumers don't have to wrestle with a pricing decision based on what matches their decor. Just my 2¢ worth.

I'm heading out to check on the house now. I need to add a thermometer that records highs and lows. That way we can tell if we have the heater (in winter) and the AC (in summer) set at the appropriate temperature for times that we're not there. The heater has a thermostat on it and automatically comes back on after a power failure, just like our AC unit. It does require a power reset if it senses that something has gone wrong and overheats. That way, you know the unit was overheating since it won't turn on as usual. I'll do a follow-up post to fill you in on how it goes. Hope everyone is staying warm!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

(Dec 2) Laying Water Line

Well, we came to the conclusion that we were not prepared to use just our water catchment system for all of our water needs. Rather than put in an elaborate pump and filter system and still not have enough water, we decided to go ahead an bite the bullet and hook up to the city water supply. This will involve running a line from the water meter (never used) back 600' to the house. We already have water line laid for the 100' in front of the house. We just need to get the 600' back to tie into it.

We had rented a trencher from Hooten's (our favorite DIY center) in Emory before when we ran the electrical lines for the solar array. We decided to use them again. $90/day is pretty reasonable but we needed to get there early so we could try to get it back before they closed at 5p. We got it picked up and decided to stop at Y'all Come Back Cafe for a quick breakfast. Always good and always inexpensive!

Early start to the day. Eating breakfast as the sun comes up!

We decided to follow the path that the electric company had used to bring the main power line down the road. This way we wouldn't have to cut a new path, just dig up the old one. It had been 2 years but surely it would be softer than virgin soil. This would also save us from having to come up through the woods where I'm sure there are significant roots in the way. No sense risking killing a 100-year-old tree for a water line. The indention was still there in the road from 2 years back so it wasn't a problem to follow. It just looks like I hired a drunk to lay out the path! lol

Really, I can cut a straight line. I was just following the trench dug before. 

The trencher does a ton of the work but anyone who's ever used one knows that it still takes a lot of effort to coax and wrangle it along the way. We got started by 9a, took a break for lunch and actually finished before 3p. I was shocked. I really worried that we would have to rent it another day. I was exhausted so we decided to wait 'til the next day before we started laying pipe. Just a note, it was just under 4 gallons of gas used for 5 hours of trenching. Not bad!

As beefy as the trench digger is, it still takes a lot of effort to wrangle and guide it!

We got the pipe laid out and started gluing together. I decided to run 1 1/4" pipe from the front back to about 2/3 of the way. I reduced to 1" and the last 100' will be 3/4". Several plumbers I've talked to say that this will give us the best option on water flow and pressure that far away. Not a big deal, schedule 40 pipe isn't very expensive, no matter which size you use. We also decided to put in several hose bibs (I used to call them faucets! lol) along the way. We put one up by the meter, 2 along the drive and one by the solar panels to facilitate cleaning them. The 2 along the drive my help accommodate other Tiny Housers some day but that's another story, figured we'd put in the option as long as we had the trencher.

Trench dug and water lines put together. Just need to pressure test them now before we bury them. 

We hit a snag after fitting the pipe bib offshoots. We had to dig up the meter to get to the pipe access point. Remember, it was installed many years before we purchased the property but never used. The previous owner didn't even know it was there. We got it dug out to find that the pipe extension had rusted off. Uggh. They will have to replace the meter. They were already scheduled to repair a leak between the meter and the road. Guess this project just got bigger for them. We'll have to wait 'til they're done 'til we can hook up and pressure test the system. I want to make sure all of my joints hold before we bury the whole thing. The good news was that the water department offered to bring out a backhoe and bury it all when we are done. Thank you!! I was not looking forward to shoveling dirt back into 600' of trench!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

(Nov 11) Building a Front Deck

We’ve lived with the pallets in front of the house for several years now. They were a cheap and easy solution as we allocated money to other projects. As the boards have been eaten away at by the ants and termites, it now becomes a priority. We wanted more than a landing to stand on and wipe our feet off but we didn’t need for it to take over the entire yard. We will expand on it later but likely to the sides. The entrance of the house faces west. I don’t see this as our primary seating area but we wanted it large enough to enjoy a little time in the morning shade. The north side will likely get the largest deck as it will be shaded by the overhanging roof most of the day. It also has a deep view of the property. Let’s get started!

Specs and materials:
12’ x 6’ floating deck with recessed piers
Concrete block piers (14, 12” base, 8” tall, heavy as hell)
2” x 6” pressure treated joists on 24” centers (7 x 12’, actual dimension 1 1/2” x 5 1/2”)
Galvanized flashing covers for the joists (78’)
2” x 6” pressure treated deck boards ( 13 x 12’, actual dimension 1 1/2” x 5 1/2”)
Galvanized joist hangers (14 for interior joists)
3” Treated deck screws (about 250 for the deck boards)
1 1/4” Treated deck screws (108 for the joist hangers)
3 1/4” Galvanized 16p nails (54 to nail the joists to the rim joist)
Construction Adhesive

Concrete piers should give us a base that will last forever (my forever) and be easy enough to build around. We ended up setting 14 of them for the 12’x6’ deck. We don’t have the height available to put in a beam and joists as the land slopes down towards the house. We also decided to use treated lumber in contrast to the steel frame that we built the house out of. We want it to last a long time but it won’t need to be as permanent. We also decided against attaching the deck to the house. This way we could avoid the construction portion of having to cut and reconfigure the siding on the house to accommodate and attach deck.

Pallets removed and bringing in deck blocks

Although I don’t expect this to last 100 years, I did want to give it every chance possible. I had seen articles talking about protecting the tops of the joists from water accumulation damage. Where the deck boards meet the joists tends to hold water and will eventually erode the pressure treatment and rot the board out. Several projects I saw used rubber window flashing over the tops of the joists. I knew that the adhesive would eventually fail though and was not sure where that would leave us. I decided to use metal flashing instead. A galvanized steel umbrella over the top of the joist should offer pretty good protection and keep the water from rotting them.

I went to our local DIY center, Hooten’s, in Emory. I hesitate to call them a hardware store. They do way more than that. They have a full-service metal fabrication operation also. They will build just about anything you desire to your specs in addition to carrying a full line of wood, concrete and steel building materials. Think of it as a Home Depot on steroids. They took some simple 3” wide flashing and folded it to match the 1 1/2” top of the joists while I waited. Great service!

Trimming joist covers to overlap

I didn’t need to connect the caps to the joists. The deck screws going through them would be plenty. I think they came out pretty nice. The cost was about another $50 on top of the $500 for the rest of the deck materials. An extra 10% to double or triple the life of the deck seemed to be a good investment.

Laying the deck blocks and getting them level was the hardest part of the project. Each block is nearly 50lbs. We would dig out a location and set the block in to get an initial assessment of position. Then, we had to lift the block out of the hole 3-4 times to raise or lower with additional dirt until it was level. We got quite the workout that day for 2 old fat people. We didn’t want the blocks exposed at the edges of the deck so we set an additional joist at each end about 5” inside the frame. That way the block wouldn’t be proud of the deck on the perimeter but it would still give us good support at the ends of the deck. We also set the inner blocks the same way about 1’ in along the front so they wouldn’t be exposed. Hopefully, you can see that in the photos. Anyway, it explains why there are 2 joists close to each other on the ends. The additional joist member (flush together was to support a perimeter border deck board but we later changed our minds about that design. Too many complications with wet wood.)

Joists in place

We set a block at the entrance of the house to make sure the elevation was correct and then worked out from there. We had to set each block itself level and then raise or lower it to match the original block. We also left a slight slope away from the building of about 1/2” just to make sure water would drain off of the boards away from the house. We filled in much of the space between the blocks with dirt, being careful not to get up to the joist level, to discourage animals from camping under it. No guarantee but it seemed like a reasonable effort.

Deck blocks in place and leveled

Next, we built a perimeter frame with our 2x6s and made sure it was square by measuring across the diagonals. We mitered the ends so there would be no butt joints exposed. We used our framing nailer with the 3 1/4” nails to put the frame together along with some construction adhesive. We also picked up some wood preservative to treat the cut ends of the pressure treated members (joists and deck boards). Pressure treating rarely penetrates the entirety of the wood so cutting an end off exposes a vulnerable entry for insects. All I could find was a gallon, again at Hooten’s as HD & Lowe’s have stopped stocking it in the stores, although we barely used a pint. I guess we’ll have a lifetime supply. :)

Each joist attached with joist hanger and then nailed from the outside. We had to stand the structure up to nail the backside closest to the house.

Now we cut the inner joists and laid them in the blocks. We blocked up the perimeter frame and set it level and attached the joists with galvanized joist hangers. We used 1 1/4” deck screws to attach the joist hangers to the frame and nailed the outside frame to the butt ends of the joists with the nails as nails handle sheer forces much better than screws which tend to be brittle when stressed with side forces. Now we capped the entire frame with the water shields I had fabricated and got ready to lay the deck boards. We left about a 1/4” overhang on all sides with the deck boards and had built the frame accordingly. We laid the 12’ 2x6s (uncut) in place one by one and screwed them into place with 3” coated deck screws. The screws didn’t seem to even notice the metal flashing they had to penetrate. Be sure and set the crown of the wood so that it will create a dome on top of the deck boards instead of a cup. Hopefully, this diagram helps.

(borrowed from Wood wants to flatten out as it's cut from a tree. Look at the end grain to determine which side was the bark side and which was closer to the center of the tree. Put the bark side down (right side of diagram) and the wood will tend to form a dome, letting water drain off the edges. If you put the wood with the bark side up, it will cup and hold water in each deck board. 

We set the straightest board we could find in the 1st position as it would set the pace for the others. We would screw one end of each deck board into place and then use a ratchet strap to pull it tight against the other boards as we went. The wood was still pretty wet from the pressure treatment so we didn’t set any gap. The boards will shrink up just a bit as they dry and leave about a 1/4” gap between the deck boards. We set one end of the deck boards flush as we went and left the other end of the deck jagged as boards are never the exact length from the mill. We’ll let this dry for a month or so and then pop a chalk line and trim them all even with a circular saw, again treating the ends after they’ve been cut.

Add caption

Finished deck. Nice project for 2 days. :)

I later went back through and finished setting the screws into the deck boards. This burned through 3 batteries on my impact driver. I highly recommend an impact driver instead of a plain drill/screwdriver. You’ll understand why the 1st time you use one to drive long screws. My Porter Cable 20v never hesitated driving the 3” screws. Be sure and wear eye and hearing protection. Driving ~ 400 screws will take its toll.

Just a note on working with wood. Everything I had done before had been with steel. It is very exact, very straight, very precise in length and depth. Wood is exactly the opposite. It’s warped and bowed and cut to varying lengths and thicknesses. It swells (at different rates) when pressure treated and shrinks as it dries. Screws and nails don’t drive in straight as they have a tendency to follow the grain. Wood tries to arch as it continues to relax after it’s been freed from its tree form. Lots to consider. When I meticulously drew up our plans for this deck, I didn’t take into account that the wood would be thicker and wider due to being wet. I planned on 13 deck boards at 5 1/2” wide. Between the swelling and the fact that they just won’t lay flush against each other, I ended up with an extra 1” hanging off of the edge of the deck closest to the house. The reasonable thing would have been to run that last board through our table saw and trim off the inch. Instead, we hooked the entire deck up to a couple of trees in the yard and pulled it away from the house another inch with ratchet straps. (Incredibly heavy by now) If it don’t fit, get a bigger hammer! lol  We were just too lazy to dig the table saw out of the storage building as it was buried with beekeeping supplies at the time. Plan accordingly. Either plan ahead and let your lumber dry for 3 weeks to a month before you start your project OR count on the room necessary for each board to be a bit wider than 5 1/2”.

We really enjoyed this project and will enjoy the deck even more over the next 30 years. Anything past that's a crap shoot - for us, not the deck. I hope it gives you some insight and helps you understand the factors in building your own simple deck. Best of luck, bless you and have a great holiday!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

(Apr 23) Bees! Bees! Bees!

OK, this past couple of weeks has pretty much just been about bees and looking forward to Earthday. We bought a full hive from someone in our bee club. We bought a swarm that someone caught. We caught our own swarm, and now we have 2 more colonies (Nucs) we are buying at the end of this week. Lots of prep time getting the boxes painted, cleaned up and ready for their new occupants. We've also been to several classes this month in prep. My head is swelling with bee knowledge. I look forward to the day that I know what I'm doing, though! We keep coming to conclusions of what we should be doing and then we run it by a seasoned beekeeper only to find out that we're still really green and don't have a clue.

That's alright! It's what this first year is about. We were told early on that if we managed to keep our bees alive for our first year that it was just a bonus. The real goal is to learn. Learn what the bees need. Learn what not to do. Learn what we should be doing and when to do it.

After a great weekend of volunteering at the Tiny House Village at Earth Day Texas, we came out to the Tiny to transfer the swarm we had caught to a permanent box. We were absolutely shocked at how busy they had been. They took over our swarm trap about 30 days ago and got after it. We really shouldn't have left them this long I guess. We made a real mess of trying to transfer the comb to the new box. Some of it was 18" deep but we only had room for 11" deep in the new box. I also wasn't prepared for how soft and pliable it was, literally breaking apart in my hand.

After tearing up most of the comb, we decided to get the rest of the bees in their new hive and just let them get back to doing what they do best. They were pretty upset and my smoker had run out of fuel. I had let Kim wear the full suit and I was only wearing a veil and some gloves. Mistake! Next time, I need at least a full jacket with an integrated veil. I got stung 6-7 times while we were performing the transfer. You just have to work through it and get it finished. I'll be better prepared next time! Count on it!

Here are some photos of us discovering what's in the swarm trap for the 1st time!

Swarm box hanging on the side of a tree at the back of our property for the last month.

Kim, getting ready to open the swarm box

1st hint that it was really full was that she could barely lift the lid it was so heavy!

Yeah, I'd say they's been busy. That's 18" of comb hanging from the lid!

More hanging in the box still

This is a lot of bees!

I'm guessing we had 8-10 pounds of bees along with another 10-12 pounds of comb with brood, honey and pollen. I need to shorten the swarm box so that they can't draw comb that deep. We're also going to use deep frames with no foundation next time instead of top bar frames. That should facilitate them moving to a deep box much easier.

I also got new bottom boards with slide in shelves installed in all of our boxes. I think this was the mistake that caused a swarm we had previously caught to leave again. The box they moved into had a regular screened bottom that let in a lot of light. I'm told they really like it dark when they take over a new location as evidenced by they're obvious appreciation of the swarm trap that only had a small slit cut in one side.

The other thing I added to all of our boxes were trough feeders. These are 1-gallon hanging feeders that go inside of the hive. It lets them better protect the food (sugar water) from other raiding hives as well as allows them to eat throughout the night and continue working. They don't mind the dark and it takes lots of food/fuel for them to produce that much wax. This time of year, they could litterally go through 2 gallons per day per hive. We mix up the syrup at a one-to-one ration (by weight) of water and sugar. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. To that we add 8 pounds of sugar. We've been paying about 50¢ per pound for sugar and are looking for a cheaper source. Combined, our hives could go through well over 100 pounds of sugar per week in feeding season!

Here's a video on YouTube of us transferring them to the new box. It's not pretty!

We'll do another follow-up when we get the 2 Nucs this weekend. Hopefully, they'll go a bit smoother. :)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

(Mar 12) Beekeeping Prep

We got our 1st bee box painted and ready to receive bees next month. We've been given an adoption date of Apr 28th. :)  That's when the 1st wave of bees will be ready for pickup. I'm a bit nervous. Not about keeping bees, about losing bees. I really want to do a good job managing them so that it's a win-win situation. I want the bees to be healthy by natural means as much as I can. I also want the bees to not only survive but be fruitful and multiply. It's kinda scary as I talk to members of our local bee club (Trinity Valley Beekeeper's Association) and hear about colonies that leave or don't make it at all. There are lots of possible reasons for this and I really want to avoid these scenarios where I have control.

I think that the bees should be given free reign to manage their own affairs where practical. I want to provide them with a safe environment to raise lots of little bees and store their crops (honey!). I want them to be disease free and manage the pests that are present to a tolerable level. I don't expect them to be completely free of things like varroa mites and hive beetles. This seems impossible these days, even with lots of chemical intervention. I would rather raise bees that are tough and savvy and able to defend their own homes without my drowning them in chemicals that are intended to help them but in the end make them dependent on such.

There is a proposed change to the statewide management of beekeeping in the state congress as we talk. After much examination and discussion about the content, we have come to the agreement that as it is, it would be worse for Texas beekeepers than the outdated laws that have been on the books since the early 80s. If you want to make a difference in beekeeping here in Texas, please contact you state representatives and senators. Let them know that the proposed bill (House Bill 1293) is too riddled with ambiguous language and errors. There are proposed changes to this bill but it's uncertain if they can or will make any of those changes in time to get them approved and passed this legislative session. There is a website that has been set up to let beekeepers monitor the progress of this legislation at Please visit it to understand the issues at hand.

Any additional support from the public would be greatly appreciated!

Back to our situation. Here's a stand that we made out of steel that we had left over from building the house. It should provide many years of service for minimal effort and money. :) We built it to support 2 bee hives. One each, centered over the cross braces for support and safety in case the hive slides forward or back. We put a little shelf at each end as a place to rest tools and such. We made it wide enough to be able to pull a box off of a hive and set it in the middle as we work the hive. We set the width based on the need for frame support. The rails are the same width as the supports inside the hive boxes so that we can pull out the frames and hang them from the rails as needed. We left room to be able to put frames on both sides of the box as well. Not a very sophisticated stand but a lot of thought went into it and its use.

We will likely build several more as we will need to support 5-6 hives this first season. We can adjust the design as we get some experience. If anyone out there has any beekeeping experience and would like to chime in, we'd love some feedback. We've already had several people ask about our making/selling the stands commercially and would love to hear of any interest.

Here it is with a hive on it:

Also made some improvements to our bar. We added a glass shelf and are playing with some tiered shelves. Here's an updated photo. :)  We are still trying to decide what to line the inside walls with. We've found several nice options but they turned out to be as expensive as the entire cabinet! We'll keep our eyes open and hope something jumps out at us. lol

Just a final note on our electric use so far this year. January ended up at $11.90 in electric use. February wasn't nearly as cold and netted out at $1.10. For March so far, we have a 60¢ credit! :) Our solar panels don't put out huge amounts of power but It seems I've got them sized just right for our current needs. If I had added another panel (and inverter) for $400, I could be enjoying $0 bills - but it would take a long time to make up the extra $400. Better to pay the couple of dollars per month until we find that our use is climbing than be upside down and trying to make up the extra cost of the other panel. I think that makes sense!

Here's a chart from our electric company on our daily use. The orange bars are the electric use. The black line is the temperature that day. Dips below -0- are where the panels produced more power than we used. Great tool to teach you how to use your power conservatively. :)