Friday, 2 September 2016

Hornet Horror

Last week (24th August) I saw an Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, at the beehives. Not good news. The hornets are capable of killing off whole hives of bees.

I phoned the Agents Rurals (a rural warden service) who where quick and efficient, arriving an hour after my call with a trap and a load of instructions.

I have been checking the trap and the area around the hives; the clue is to look for the severed heads of worker bees. The hornet takes the thorax, which provides protein for its larvae.

So far I have not found any.

But I am on guard:

Kung Fu Crofter

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Bee Tongue

A fascinating piece - if you like words - from the University of Barcelona, has helped me understand why people in Catalonia use so many words for beehive. Some people here say it's a 'rusc' and others that it is an 'arna.'

Research by Maria-Pilar Perea and Germà Colón Domènech at the University of Barcelona that might be of interest to Dr Jarrett over in his Corner of 10th Century Europe, shows the development of at least six words or phrases for beehive. 

'Rusc' in yellow, 'arna' in green


Their map shows how 'rusc' was the word used in the Barcelona area, while 'arna' was used in western Catalonia, at least since the 13th century.

Which of course led me back to Scotland, where I can remember my Mum using a word that was not 'hive.'  She called a hive a 'bee-howff', which means a bee-residence or bee lodge.

In Scots we also have;


  • Bee-bike, or byke, defined in the Scots Dialect Dictionary as a wild bees' nest, and in Chambers Scots Dictionary as also meaning a swarm, an assembly of people, or unexpected good luck. In the old days, finding a wild bees' nest was unexpected good luck
  • Bink, defined in The Scots Thesaurus as a hive
  • Ruskie, a straw beehive

Truly we speak in bee-tongues.


Special thanks to Teresa at the Catalan Beekeepers Association for this information.

Monday, 15 August 2016

It started with a seed...

...that got caught in Fidget's (the sheep) neck. 

Then some more got caught there, and then Quim the shepherd told me that this is a common problem. Some sheep feed with their heads low down, near the ground - and get covered in the grain that falls out when the rest of the flock eat.

It had become a real problem, so I replaced our tall upright hay feeder with a home-made one, knocked up from scrap wood from around the Croft.
Bits, and a bit of a plan

It's made

It works!

Scrap is SO useful!

Bugs at the Croft

A selection of images to reassure you that despite the pesticides that are being sprayed around the world, this little corner of Catalonia still has a load of lovely bugs.

Stink bug sex, in full colour

This is a potter wasp nest, beautifully built on a blade of grass.
Potter; The Cupboard under the Staircase


This is the beauty of leaving your skin behind.



I jumped out of my skin


And here is the life on our thyme flowers, on 26th June of this year:



Monday, 18 July 2016

We're Renewable!

We just signed up to have our electricity supplied 100% by renewable sources - thanks to the lovely people at the Som Energia cooperative.

The process was easy, quick and cheap. Just €100 to join the cooperative as a member, and then a simple form to complete.

I had considered installing solar voltaic panels at the Croft, but the cost of the panels and the converter, with enough power to run a large house and our three water pumps (well, irrigation and recycled water), was prohibitive. Som Energia supplies certified renewable energy mainly from wind power.

One more step toward a lower-carbon footprint...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Fit on the Croft

Working on the Croft is the equivalent of paying an exorbitant fee to a fancy gym, except it is free. Last Saturday I shifted 60 bales of hay, using - at least this was how it felt - every muscle in my body.

Hay sweater
Shifting hay at the Croft means picking the bale up in the field, lifting it into the back of our trusty Nissan, piling in five more bales, driving over to the hay pile, and stacking them up. Not for lightweights...

Luckily, the Croft helps me recover. We have the beautiful Spiny Golden Star (Pallenis spinosa) in flower at the moment. 

Good for the spine

Our neighbour Dolors has shown me how to soak the flowers in alcohol and make a muscle-rub. It's an incredibly effective treatment for a back made sore by the hay-bales.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Runny Honey

My first honey harvest today!

Miquel had loaned me his centrifuge, and today started sunny and calm, so I set out the kitchen ready for the harvest:

Not ergonomic, but it works
I sealed the windows. Not to stop the bees coming in, but to stop them getting out. If they escape they head off to tell their mates, and in no time you have 10,000 bees trying to get in to rob your harvested honey.



Then up to the hives with all the necessary equipment...




..and back with one full upper and two sets of frames. It has been rainy, so the bees are not yet really ready with the honey.

In the kitchen I weighed the honey.
That honey is dense


Then removed the cappings from the frames, centrifuged them and filtered the  honey. 

Watch that knife, Crofter.
 

Result: 26.5kg of fresh honey!