Category Archives: Beekeeping

Castle Buchanan Part Deux!

Stage two of the Hummer was of course showing it off and getting a little feedback. Thus, it was hauled to the Alameda County Beekeepers Association meeting the next opportunity.

Folks were either impressed or suitably baffled. Next of course would be a location and occupants. In this case, it was a cart and horse thing. We had rescued a colony a couple of months earlier. and they were plugging away in a nuc box. So the search was on to expand the growing Melliferalle effort. And…… TADA!!!!! An opportunity presented itself!!!


Not much to look at….. but the BART tracks bees had a home. My friend Paula had oodles of room on a 4 acre property about three or four miles from the house. So the noble experiment was off and running! More to come of course.


The Story of Castle Buchanan. Part One!

Buchanan inspection

My first hive was a top bar hive (see previous post). Of course I was fascinated by this hive. I was also fascinated by everything beekeeping! I wanted a hive of every configuration. Wanted to learn it all. I mentioned to my mentor at the time, Alan Kramer, that it would be wonderful if there was a horizontal Langstroth type hive and by golly he referred me to Michael Bush.

It took some years and some experience with regular Langstroth beekeeping for me to get around to it. Alan and I had planned to build an experimental “long-Lang” but we never got to that. What makes “Langs” work is bee space (future post) AND almost as important is the interchangeability of standardized components, especially the frames the bees use to build their comb. And in order to make the frames work in a hive, there must be rabbeted frame rests for the frames to seat themselves nicely in the hive boxes. There are a few ways to accomplish this. The main method is a “dado” blade in a table saw. Alan has a table saw; I did not. Time passed……

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I pondered the question for what seemed like forever about the build itself and EUREKA!!  – the solution presented it self. What if I BOUGHT lang boxes which were ALREADY rabbeted, and cut and pasted ’em all together all nice-like and all????…….

The trick was to cut off the dovetailed joints on the rabbeted sides. Not all of them, just the ends which were “butt” joined. The bits on the ground above show the first effort…..


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That-there is the basic configuration!! AND it would fit 30 deep frames!! which was monstrous, indeed! the question was would the bees like it? STAY TUNED!!

Swarm Box Success!

Swarm season is here, and since our top bar honeybee hive is packed to the rafters, it has been a very swarmy couple of weeks. The first swarm landed in a tree way way too high for us to reach, so we put a couple of swarm boxes out in hopes that the bees would move in. And it worked!

20170310_170436b small

Watch this exciting video of the bees going into the swarm box!  This is a Langstroth deep with 10 frames, baited with bee lure to attract the scouts who go around to find a good location for the hive to move into.

Happy bees, happy us!!

Sweet Extraction Day

The wonders of beekeeping and helping struggling honeybees are the main reasons we have beehives, but harvesting honey and beeswax from our girls is an extra special bonus. We don’t take honey every year. If the bees need it for food we leave it, but some seasons the stars align and there’s extra.BeekeepingGeorge and I are suited-up and ready to extract. Smoke calms the bees.Beekeeping

George selects some frames and we carry them away from the hive. This frame is full of honey – it doesn’t ooze out because once it’s full the bees cap the honey with wax.BeekeepingThe first step: uncapping (scraping the wax from the honey).BeekeepingWe have a hand-extractor to spin the honey from the comb without crushing the wax, so we can put the frames right back into the hive and save the bees the work of reconstruction.

After vigorous spinning, the sweet reward starts pouring out. Beekeeping

We use the beeswax to make candles and Honey Kissed beeswax soothing hand lotion.

Beekeeper with Honey Kissed hand lotion
Beekeeper George with handcrafted Honey Kissed hand lotion

We also make Honey Kissed lip balm from our honey and beeswax.

Honey Kissed lip balm

You can find La Ferme honey – and lots of other delicious local honey – at BioFuel Oasis on 1441 Ashby Ave., Berkeley California. If you’re local you can pick up from us in El Cerrito, email George at with your order. And if you want some of our Honey Kissed hand lotion or lip balm, email George or Heidi at