Master Beekeeping…


Link to info for how to become a Master Beekeeper in NC.



Photos in the Apiary…


Today I met…


The McCulloughs. They are both retired, formerly in education. She was the Melba of her school; he worked at the central office. They are very friendly and patient…but be weary of discussions about the bamboo! The are conscious of the issues facing bees. They actively plant barley and are growing lavender from seed. He keeps notes directly on his hives with Sharpie and has a wicked electric bear fence that he is planning to expand. They appreciate art and pottery; have an incredible unique entryway made of home made tile from a friend of theirs. They have about 20 hives.

Mushroom fun at Wild Dahlia Homestead

This past (windy) Sunday my wife and I headed up to Wild Dahlia Homestead to see Alex and Stacey for a 3-4 hour class on Mushroom Cultivation! The homestead sits just between Cherryville and Kings Mountain, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from good ole Lattimore that I call home! Stacey welcomed us with some great herbal tea I’m hoping to get the ingredients for- She told me, but I don’t remember! Afterward, Alex, our instructor for the day, walked us down to the woods to show us his mushroom log collection and setup. I got some great ideas for what to do with certain areas of our property that are shady, low-lying areas with rain run-off issues; turns out, these areas that aren’t good for much else (for us), may be great areas for growing mushrooms! Woohoo!

Next we headed back up the path and to the backyard where we settled in for a mini-lecture on mushroom basics. Topics covered included types of mushrooms, fungi science, history, cooking, inoculation methods, log choice, log preparation, log location, required tools, and finally, an excellent resource or two for purchasing all of your fungi needs!

After our lecture, Alex demonstrated preparing a mushroom log using the totem method. In this method, you saw a log in about 3 short and stubby pieces, place about a quarter-inch of sawdust spawn in the bottom of a bucket and between each section of the log, and build a totem pole this way by screwing these sections of log back together in whatever simple method you can! Now, this is an over-simplification, but here is an excellent PDF from Cornell University that shows what I’m talking about, and explains it a little better.

Following our demonstration, Alex gave us some hands-on experience with inoculating logs with plugs and saw dust spawn using a drill, hammer, and a nifty little “palm inoculator” for injecting saw dust spawn. After completely plugging one log, we watched as Alex showed us how to put the finishing touches on the log by waxing over the plugs.

I really enjoyed our visit to Wild Dahlia Homestead; it was a great experience and I will definitely be heading back for future learning opportunities! I have included below a stream of consciousness (notes) from the day:

Saprophytic Mushrooms are easily cultivated on wood. Chanterelle mushrooms grow in the wild and are difficult to produce commercially. Truffles are another example of those that are not easily cultivated, because we do not understand the minerals that are required and exactly what’s going on in the soil.

Fungus has its own kingdom. It used to be in the plant kingdom. Proteins in the mushrooms are similar to proteins in animals. They inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.

Shiitake cultivation is an ancient art. It is the most popular mushroom that is cultivated today. Shiitake mushrooms that are dried in the sun are much higher in vitamin D. The gills facing up produced the most vitamin D.

Research lacto fermentation. Sour kraut is lacto fermented.

Do not eat them raw in general. Definitely do not eat chicken of the woods raw… Cook them all for at least 20 minutes. Shiitake can be eaten in small amounts raw.

Any hardwood is good for inoculating shiitake mycelium. 6 rows of plugs on a 4″ log. 7 rows on a 5″ log, etc… Mycelium grows with greater ease when it grows in the same direction as the grain of the wood. It grows slower against the grain of the wood. Therefore, you should inoculate rows closer than plugs within the same row…

Soy wax from fungi perfecti. Food grade paraffin wax.

Soak and shock method. Soak log for up to 12 hours completely submerged. Hit With hammer/toss in air….

Mycelium loves 70 degree weather. The closer to freezing the temperature falls, the slower the mycelium will grow. Growth completely stops at zero degrees.

You can inoculate a stump at the same pattern and rate as you inoculate logs. At the top of the stump, where it has been sawed off, you will come in 1″ and inoculate. You will not inoculate onto the edge of the stump, or directly into the hardwood.

You can place your inoculated logs into the ground, simulating a stump. One third of the log length should be buried. The buried part of the log should be more heavily inoculated to avoid the invasion of another type of fungus. You should mix in sand with the dirt that comes in contact with the log, as there is little to no fungal growth in sand.

Maitake logs must be buried in the ground. Very sought after mushroom. Highly medicinal. They should be buried and inch underneath the soil…Multiple logs… Much like you are building a raft beneath the ground… logs done this way should be double-inoculated. In order for the mycelium to spread faster between the logs, they will shave off the bark to expose the wood where the logs touch… This method would fruit above the ground. cauliflower mushroom will grow well like this as well. 3 logs wide is enough to implement this method.

You can speed up maitake mushroom growth by using the hoop house method… Basically building a small greenhouse over the buried mushroom logs.

Wine Cap is a large and prized mushroom. Lookup Riche Mushroom

“Field and Forest Products” provides a good catalog and is a good source for mushroom products.

Oyster mushrooms will grow practically anywhere and in anythingpeanut hulls and coffee grounds can be used to grow oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are very vigorous.

Mushroom Mountain may be a good source of plugs

Totem method

Lion’s Mane grows well using the totem method.

Dowel plugs are easier to use and faster, although more expensive. Saw dust spawn is a third of the cost of dowel rods.

Put a cup or a little more of the saw dust into the bottom of a bucket. Should be about one-quarter of an inch of saw dust in the bottom… then, place the bottom totem on top of the saw dust base within the bucket. One quarter inch of dust between the totems… should be kept at 60-80 degrees sealed in a plastic bag for various lengths of time depending on the mushroom.

Can grow shiitake, oysters, lion’s mane and others with totem method.

Lobster mushroom is a fungus that attacks another type of mushroom. It is a fungus on a fungus… That turns the fungus that it attacks into an edible mushroom.

Thanks for reading and I hope to upload some pictures of this adventure soon!

NUCs vs Packaged Bees


As a new, aspiring beekeeper, one of the first decisions that I had to make was to purchase packaged bees or a NUC. A NUC (short for Nucleus Colony) is basically a tiny version of a complete hive, containing bees and frames with brood (baby bees), whereas packaged bees are just that, merely bees and only bees in a screened box. There are advantages to each option, but I am convinced that a NUC is the superior choice for the novice beekeeper, or specifically a beekeeper with no other hives.

One advantage of packaged bees would definitely be price; as a 3 lbs package of bees will run only $90 including the queen. A NUC, on the other hand, will run you about $150. However, as a beginner I am convinced that spending the additional $60 on the NUC is well-worth the investment and here’s why:

    1. A package of bees is generally shipped to the customer via US Mail. The queen (who may or may not be mated) will be caged separately, then put into the package with the other bees. The queen must be “accepted” by the rest of the hive. Generally, with a package, the colony has from the time it is shipped until the time it arrives to the customer for this “acceptance” to occur. If they do not accept her as their queen, the colony will surely fail and may swarm immediately. That would be $90 down the drain. In contrast, the NUC, if purchased from a reputable source will contain a queen who is both mated and accepted by the rest of the colony. Their whole system depends on the queen; without the queen, there is no colony. In addition, the post carriers are generally afraid of bees and you can depend on them not being treated with the same tenderness, love and care of the bee enthusiast. Afraid of them getting loose and stinging the carrier, they may place them beneath other boxes, trapped,  which may result in suffocation. NUCs are most commonly picked up by the customer from the provider, which brings me to my next point.
    2. A NUC is generally purchased locally; and aside from supporting the local “bee farmer”, you will most likely receive bees that are acclimated to your specific region.
    3. Should the packaged bees accept their queen, and take up residence in your hive, they will need to begin building their home from scratch. As a new beekeeper, you will not have other colonies to pull from to help your new package survive. Generally, packages of bees arrive early spring; spring is the prime season for pollen collection and honey-flow! Packaged bees will need to spend weeks of their prime season to draw-out new comb, which is a tedious, tiring and time-consuming process; one that must be done prior to the queen having a place to lay her eggs and the gatherers having a place to store pollen and honey. The colony must struggle and work tirelessly to build their food stores and be ready for the winter months. NUCs, however, arrive with 5 frames of drawn comb, which, if chosen carefully will contain brood at all stages of development. Since the life of a honeybee is typically six short weeks, this is an incredibly important aspect of the decision to purchase the NUC. Imagine how long it will take the packaged bees to draw-out their comb, the queen to begin laying eggs, and 21 days later have those eggs develop into a new worker bee. It is possible, especially given how over-worked the hive will be, that bees from the package will begin to die off before the new brood develops, putting the colony in jeopardy of collapse. The NUC, with brood at all stages of development will likely arrive with new worker bees emerging from their cells daily, giving you a steady stream of workers who can begin the most-important job of gathering pollen and making honey during the most productive time of the year! The NUC colony will likely gather a surplus, whereas the packaged colony will have struggled to survive only to face the winter with less than what they will likely need in food stores.

As a beginner, I have chosen to start with an option which shows the highest probability of success, the NUC. As an added bonus, you will have the emptied NUC box to capture a swarm or do a split, if you’re lucky enough for this to be necessary!