Wintering Bees

Snow covers the land.

Wintering bees is always a challenge, but isn’t rocket science! Bees are originally from warm climates but have adapted to live even in the coldest of places, like Southern Colorado!

Most large bee keeping operations have shipped their buzzing friends off to warmer lands where the Queens of each colony will keep laying with no break.

Winter is when the colony gets to rest, and the Queen slows and stops laying until spring. She can take a breath and enjoy her subjects, and explore her honey and wax filled domain.

Master Bee keepers around the world are baffled at Colony collapse. It isn’t a mystery to us small hive keepers.

The key to a healthy thriving colony is a strong Queen. Bee. By letting her majesty rest, she will be ready for the task come warmer weather of building her brood, and then swarming to a new kingdom leaving the domain to her new princesses. ( Who May or May not combat her fellow chosen sisters for the right to be the Queen for the remaining hive.) Workers will continue their duties and help the new Queen as they would the last.

The Queen rules the hive, but doesn’t run it. Worker bees see to her every need, from cleaning her chambers to bringing her nutrient rich royal jelly from deeper in the hive made especially for her and her brood.

By treating the matriarch of the hive with gentle respect ( opening the hive only when essential for inspection, proper wintering and rest) shell thrive and live for a long time. A master bee keeper told me that back in his grandfathers day a Queen could live ten years if she was cared for. Now they live and average of 3-4 years. I asked him why he thought that was. He only shrugged and set the bear trap.

I believe in my humble opinion that the cause of a major collapse is the loss of a healthy, strong Queen. When we ask her to lay 12 months a year when her biology says 7-8 (depending on her location ) you can imagine Jar the extra work would have a toll on the entire colony. But that’s my hummmmbumble bee opinion on such a sticky matter.

We moved our small hive into a better location that has longer winter sun exposure, and makes their purge flights more convenient for everyone!

The entrance to the hive is facing East, and gives them morning warmth.

Let nature do the rest.

Fall is when the great Mother settles for her time of rest over the long cold of winter. Soil regenerates and the worms sleep.

Pumpkins finish ripening in the cold nights and warm days.

We don’t pull up the stocks of any of the plants, we let the birds pick the last of the seeds and the roots die off naturally, giving back every bit of their nutrients as possible from the decaying roots and plant material. Chipmunks nibble on the sunflower sticks, and the migratory birds stop over at our small pond to refuel before continuing south.

The weather has been amazing since the storm, pushed and held over the Rockies by the heat of California’s fires. We got nine inches of snow, temperatures dropped 60 degrees in 24 hrs and had 65-70mph winds on 9.9.20.

It was great for our dry creeks and mountains, but hell for the farmers. We buried what we couldn’t harvest under a foot of straw and covered the berries with weed block.

After the pounding 💨 wind, and snow all that was left was the lettuce and berries.

The bees made out just fine, confused by happy on the next sunny day!

Two days later the ladies are out in force to hit what’s left out in the fields.

BEES 🐝!!!

I installed my first package of bees back in May! I’ve got a funny little Hive made by Summer Hawk.

It is cute, and smaller than the standard Langsworth. (Smaller by 2 inches!$) but it serves its purpose. Housing my bees. I got the hive back in 2018. But it sat empty for almost two years until this year I SWORE I was going to have bees this spring!

Expanding the beds.

Yogi Bear is a jerk, and so is Boo Boo.

A very concerned flock.

Most humans will rarely encounter a bear. And that is a good thing. Here in the southern Colorado Rockies we have the Native Black bear. Now don’t be fooled by the coloration in the name.

Black bears can be white, blond or in the case with my two stooges, an adult cinnamon with a shoulder that reached my lettuce hoop, and a new kid. Typical, black and white markings on his chest.

For the sake of clarification, we are going to call the big Red bear, Yogi, and his young accomplice Boo-Boo.

Boo boo was the first to arrive for the backyard party. I was awoken to a crash, and my boxer Jack, growling at the end of my bed. I was on my feet and at the back door in time for Jack to fly out past me, and flush a bear out of the side yard. And here came Boo-Boo staring wide eyed over his shoulder at me as he climbed my fence, with a pullet in his jaws!

I sounded the alarm with a few rounds of my 20ga… and he moved on for the morning.

I came out to what looked like a crime scene with the Hulk gone mad. Feathers for days, metal fencing bent and twisted like it was a soft noodle. And the chaos of frightened bewildered survivors.

So we set to cleaning up the pullet yard and tightened security, wove the fencing with bailing twine (might as well be mithrel the way I wove it) moves motion lights to the back, and got back to daily chores.

That evening sitting at the dinner table around 2300 watching a new Netflix binge of the week, the back motion light came on.

Three nights , two different bears.

There be Bears…

Life in the mountains is serene, a disconnection from the over modernization of our world. Clean air, blue skies and open land… comes with a price.

End of the season.

Sunday was our last day for the summer market in Blanca. The hard chargers who braved the new market from the beginning stood with the wind and the fall sunshine on the tree filled grounds.

Those who remained recounted their sales, counted their new friends and began to plan for the fall and winter festivals.

I was reflecting on the awesome and strange that came to our small, humble yet diverse open market.

A Night Jar landed on my canopy, and to the mystical surprised everyone, hung out while we hustled our wares.

While much of my outdoor season was done save for the potatoes, summer squash, some greens and bolito beans the dome is still in full swing.

While our season here is at a close you can always email me @

Whitecrowranchslv@gmail.com To join our beeswax updates and CSA. You can also find our eggs, seasonal produce and herbs at Cids in Taos New Mexico.Cids food market

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Colorado Proud

Colorado Proud

WCRSLV joined the Proud list of Colorado businesses producing goods right here in the Rocky Mountain States!

Last Wilds of Colorado

Last of the Wild West
South WCR 40 acres

When I moved to the San Luis Valley almost five years ago it was an open wild place with horses roaming as they had for the last 10,000 years.

Elk , deer and antelope once played plentiful on these lands. Now 5 years later I’m seeing unabated and devastating growth that is adversely altering the ancient path ways of Colorado wild life, forest and desert 🌵.

Open land is being fenced and scraped, creeks are being polluted and pumped to serve the illegal needs of many that have moved into the mountains with little resources and big dreams of becoming cannabis growers.

Trash upon trash fills the open lands, dumped over the years. Bed frames, car parts, poached elk, refrigerators, tires upon tires upon tires…

Found this in a dip on the South WCR. It will take at least two full trailer loads to haul it all off.

So what do we do as a community? As a people? As keepers of this planet ?

Do we quietly clean it up and say nothing, stewing with resentment or do we educate? Or eradicate the offenders?

Costilla county is home to the second largest herd of elk in the country at 150,000 head.
First largest is in the San Juan’s @ 250,000.

Since taking out the human trash isn’t always an option, becoming aware of ones county codes and reporting the violations is one option, slow but effective.

The best way to end the cycle of environmental abuse is by taking folks out into the wilds and showing them the beauty and installing a sense of pride with in them.

Having a sense of ownership of the environment helps create visceral connections, joy, happiness and uplifts the spirits of those all present. By changing the way we see and feel about open land will benefit us all.

Fox, deer and human.

Blanca is sacred to many American Indians, including the Navajo, Utes, and the Comanche.

Colorado is one of the last bastions of wild frontier, and its being sold away parcel by parcel.

Currently Costilla county is working on building a wildlife corridor from the Sangre Di Christo Mountain ranges to the flats or “ant hills”. West of the Rio Grande.

Preparing for a Colorado Spring.

It is spring in Southern Colorado, the mountain blue birds have returned with their wives, the Crow murders are flying East to their spring nests in the high Meadowlands , the elk have come down the mountain to nibble the grasses coming up against the lingering snow and frost.

Small herd of Elk in the San Luis Valley
Photo by C.S Grable

We’ve started adding the winters manure from the horse paddock to all the deep beds, cleared the coops of all the straw and replaced it with pine shavings.

Pine shavings keep down poultry mites and ambient moisture and dust.
Photo by C.S Grable

All of the winters livestock bedding is mixed into the deep beds. The chickens are then released into the beds to help churn up the medium, eat any critters that may have moved in (from tasty red worms to large creepy grubs) over winter. While they are working and turning the soil the birds are also leaving behind amazing little gold nuggets in the form of chicken turds.

Once the soil has been turned by the flock, the beds are soaked with water and covered with black tarps to Solarize them.

Solarization helps speed up the composting system, kills bacteria and unwanted sprouts.

Chickens turning the soil and looking for bugs.
Photo by C.S Grable