Altopia Farms

Altopia Farms

Alternative Beehives

Recently I wrote an article about the innards of a beehive. I touched on some of the types of hives besides the Langstroth hives that I use. (see article here to catch up http://cagmain.com/2015/07/15/inside-a-beehive/ ). Recently I made my way back home to eastern Ky and visited a cousin. His "bee gums" reminded me that you don't have to have a $300 store bought hive to get the wonderful liquid gold we know as honey. On occasion, I forget my hillbilly roots that inspire me to make everything myself and get carried way with the modern more efficient ways of doing things. Sometimes, any way is better than no way. A bee gum is nothing more than a section of a hollow tree that bees were living in. You find the bees and cut down a the section with the most honey, comb and the queen in it. You take it home and set it up on a stand of some sort and cover the top. As time allows, you can build a box to put atop the gum that acts as a super. It can be a Langstroth style super or a homemade top bar super.[wpvideo 6g5Uge79]

A top bar hive is a container, usually a trapezoidal box with small 1/2x1 inch boards spanning the top. it can be that simple or you can get fancy and attach a piece of triangular stock to the board or cut them triangular to begin with. The point of the triangle will hang down and act as an edge for the bees to hang their comb. You may also use a 55 gallon drum cut longitudinally. You can also use hollowed out logs with top bars placed inside.

top bar

Obtaining the bees is a different story. You can buy them during the spring and summer. A 3lb package (about 10K) of bees and a mated queen will set you back about $150 with shipping, to your local post office. You can put an add in a local paper or Craigslist offering to remove hives and swarms for free or you can try to bait them in with lemongrass oil and other techniques. This year I harvested a nice swarm from a neighbors peach tree. Don't be afraid, when bees are swarming, they are very docile and don't usually attack. In the video you will see me sweeping the bees off the tree with a light bristled brush into one of my hive bodies. [wpvideo 7oWhMDpQ] I hope you find this useful. Stay tuned for more articles and videos on beekeeping and other readiness topics. Don't forget to jump over to CAG NET where Green Berets and other subject matter experts (SME's) hang out. Ask questions and get involved in the conversation. AL

TR

Visibility Signature Managment

Signature management is the ability to blend into your environment using different types of equipment or tradecraft. It is used to deceive your enemy’s observation equipment or mask your presence to the enemy. Just for a second, try to recall and remember the people you bumped into or encountered today while working, shopping or getting pumping gas. Most of you won't remember much unless someone or something stood out because of their clothing, attitude or language. Unless you work on a military installation, you more then likely didn’t see a whole bunch of people wearing military camouflage uniforms. When the SHTF, you may not want to take your family to your load out room and put on camouflage uniforms and body armor. Just because life just got complicated doesn't mean everyone is going to be wearing body armor and camouflage pants in the street or in town. Everything has a time and place to be used and taking just a minute to make the right choice might just save your life.Signature management is the ability to blend into your environment using different types of equipment or tradecraft. It is used to deceive your enemy’s observation equipment or mask your presence to the enemy. Just for a second, try to recall and remember the people you bumped into or encountered today while working, shopping or getting pumping gas. Most of you won't remember much unless someone or something stood out because of their clothing, attitude or language. Unless you work on a military installation, you more then likely didn’t see a whole bunch of people wearing military camouflage uniforms. When the SHTF, you may not want to take your family to your load out room and put on camouflage uniforms and body armor. Just because life just got complicated doesn't mean everyone is going to be wearing body armor and camouflage pants in the street or in town. Everything has a time and place to be used and taking just a minute to make the right choice might just save your life.2b6950e46da305872771bc6fc5de3485 Throughout my time in the military there has been one saying that has stood out and remained true in all the situations I have been in, “Right place, right time, right uniform, with the right attitude”. When the SHTF; it’s time to blend in and become the grey man/woman. You are not going want to stand out and bring attention to yourself and family. Being a "tactical peacock" could cost you your life or all of your provisions if you draw the attention of the wrong people. Does this mean you need to go and throw out all of your camouflage and hunting gear? No, because it has its place and use and is another tool in your arsenal. Think about this, if the police or federal agencies send in provocateurs to stir up trouble, they won’t wear their Sunday best in combat equipment looking all Operator as F&%k. operaator They will dress the part and blend in with the crowd. The same goes for undercover police officers today, the look and talk the part to deceive the untrained eyes and ears of criminals. You should try to blend in and go unnoticed. The best gunfight is the one you avoided. Being prepared and trained doesn't mean you should go out and look for trouble. Now let's discuss three styles of clothing.
  1. Military camouflage serves two purposes. One, it designed is to hide or conceal the soldier from the enemy and two, it provides the fighting force with a service common camouflage pattern that allows you to distinguish who is on your team. When its time to camouflage up and put on all that multi-cam gear you bought, just make sure it’s the “Right place, right time, right uniform, with the right attitude”. Remember military equipment intimidates most people. If you’re wearing combat equipment' it means you are on the offensive, you have planned a fight and its time to take action
  2. Hunting camouflage works great when trying to blend into the forest when you may need to explore or recon a new area. It takes a lot of energy and time to snoop and poop around unnoticed in full battle rattle. If it's hunting season or you're in an area where people are known to hunt, you may have access and placement when wearing commercial camo.  Just because SHTF doesn’t mean local authorities won't continue to try and enforce laws so blend in. It is a lot easier to just walk around in hunting camouflage with a hunting rifle (not a machine gun or death machine BOV you have been building in your garage). If you get caught in someone’s area and look like you belong to the military, a federal agency or a looter dressed like Rambo, the people you encounter just may shoot first and take your stuff off your dead body. But if you look like a local and act like you belong there, it just might give you that second look, just enough time to slow their reaction that could save your life (always have a back story). SF guys don't grow beards, mustaches or long hair to look cool, it's to blend in with the locals and give themselves the advantage of surprise and anonymity.dave
There are tons of low visibility techniques, from the simple like clothing, to the high tech like thermal mitigating camouflage, eventually we will cover them all. Next: Low vis/ signature rack systems verses body armor. (yes there's some 5th Group Mafia going on here for those that get it) Ski

TR

Homemade Sauerkraut!

Recently I wrote about the different cole crops. It just so happens that we harvested all our cabbage a few weeks ago and since we don't yet have a root cellar, we decided to turn it into kraut and can most of it. I know, most of you are thinking, eww gross, sauerkraut is nasty. I would agree if you are talking about the soured mushy cabbage substance that comes in a can from the store. But, real homemade, fermented kraut is totally different and its full of beneficial microbes we so hiply call probiotics.Recently I wrote about the different cole crops. It just so happens that we harvested all our cabbage a few weeks ago and since we don't yet have a root cellar, we decided to turn it into kraut and can most of it. I know, most of you are thinking, eww gross, sauerkraut is nasty. I would agree if you are talking about the soured mushy cabbage substance that comes in a can from the store. But, real homemade, fermented kraut is totally different and its full of beneficial microbes we so hiply call probiotics. Growing up in Appalachia, kraut was a part of the "coal miners dinner". Soup (pinto) beans, cornbread, kilt lettuce n onions, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, a pork chop if you were lucky, and of course, kraut. Eventually I just considered it poor people food and occasionally ate the crap from a can with my nostalgic hillbilly dinner. Then we started growing a garden and eventually canning our own food. So naturally we ended up making kraut as a way to prolong our cabbage harvest and add to our goal of becoming self-sufficient. And boy is it good.

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Fermented foods have been around forever. When our European ancestors came to These United States, the brought with them foods and techniques that were time tested for survival. The process of fermenting foods adds beneficial enzymes, vitamins B and C not to mention the microbes that keep our intestinal health it top shape. The bacteria themselves help provide vitamins while living inside your intestinal tract. Think about it, opening a jar of kraut in the dead of winter is the perfect immune system booster. [gallery size="medium" ids="2063,2064,2066"] Making kraut is ridiculously easy. You will need some cabbage obviously and something to ferment it in. We use an old 4 gallon crock that we bought at the antique store for $25. We have also used the one gallon sized glass pickle jars. Some people simply ferment it in the quart or pint jar they plan to keep it in. That's how my wife did her half of this years cabbage. Everyone in my family likes plain ol' kraut, I like to spice it up a bit with some jalapeños, garlic, caraway seed, etc. In this batch I made a few quarts of different types.  Garlic and smoked paprika, mmm. Anyway, you will also need some salt. [caption id="attachment_2065" align="alignright" width="300"]20150717_173135 You can also ferment in the smaller jars. Keep them in a shallow pan to collect any dripping that may occur during fermentation.[/caption] Simply shred the cabbage to your desired consistency. We just run it through the food processor. Then spread it out in an LEM food grade tote. Sprinkle just a little salt, then add another 1-2 inch layer and sprinkle a little more salt. Keep doing this 'till you run out of cabbage. Then, let it sit for about 10-15 minutes as the salt draws the juice out of it. Next, cram it in whatever container you are using. Again, I use a crock or glass jars and I avoid plastic and most certainly metals. Any reactions or leaching will give the kraut off flavors or worse ruin it. When I say cram, I mean cram. I use my fists to compress the cabbage as tightly as possible into the crock. My wife uses a tamper made from a piece of Delrin cutting board attached to a dowel to compress it into the jars. If you have done it right, all the cabbage is tightly compacted and there will be enough juice to provide a half inch over the cabbage. If not, no worries. Just add 2 tablespoons of non iodized salt (pickling, Kosher, sea salt) to one quart of distilled water. We use distilled water so the chlorination of our tap water doesn't kill the natural bacteria need for fermentation. Add enough of the brine to cover the cabbage and compress it again. This type of fermentation is anaerobic so we want to get out any air bubbles.

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You will need to keep the cabbage completely submerged in the brine juice, this prevents it from making contact with the air. I use a dinner plate that is nearly the same diameter as the inside of my crock. I then place a 1 gallon pickle jar filled with water, about ten lbs total, on top of it to keep the cabbage pushed down below the liquid. I then cover it with a plastic bag or cheese cloth and let it sit for about a week. Then I will begin to skim any funk off the top. This is completely normal and harmless. If during the course of the next few weeks the liquid level gets too low, I add more brine solution. Let it sit another week and taste test it. Keep skimming of the krud of needed. When it is to your liking you can either put it in the cellar or fridge, or can it in jars. I do both. Some for now and some for later. If I had a cellar I wouldn't bother with canning it and I don't have enough room in my fridge to keep the 6 gallons we made, so in the jars it goes. Just keep in mind that canning it kills the probiotics. To can it, warm it up in a skillet if you want to do a hot pack, cram it into the jars with enough juice to cover it and leave 1/2 inch of space to the top. For cold pack, forego the skillet and just pack the jars the same way. Put on the lids and process in a water bath for 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts. Add ten minutes for Cold (raw) pack. You don't have to be a farmer or homesteader to do this. pick up a couple heads of cabbage from your local farmers market and give it a whirl. These are skills that should be learned now, not when you need them to survive. If you are an apartment dweller or live in a subdivision but just don't want the responsibility of a garden, this is a great way to make yourself more appealing to someone you may want to bug out to. Learning these types of skills will make you a valuable asset. Farm Header/Logo

Intro to Long Range Precision Shooting

A question that keeps coming up in the preparedness circles is whether or not there is a role for the “sniper”. Due to the variations in why people choose to be prepared, I'll leave that up to you. What I will do is give you a brief definition of a few terms. A simple definition of a sniper is skilled military shooter or spotter/shooter team that is tasked to engage targets from concealment, usually at distances that exceed the enemy's standard weapons and detection capabilities. Often they act forward of enemy lines and more often than not, simply conduct surveillance and report information back to higher headquarters. The role has been popularized by Hollywood which often portrays some very unrealistic events.

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A question that keeps coming up in the preparedness circles is whether or not there is a role for the “sniper”. Due to the variations in why people choose to be prepared, I'll leave that up to you. What I will do is give you a brief definition of a few terms. A simple definition of a sniper is skilled military shooter or spotter/shooter team that is tasked to engage targets from concealment, usually at distances that exceed the enemy's standard weapons and detection capabilities. Often they act forward of enemy lines and more often than not, simply conduct surveillance and report information back to higher headquarters. The role has been popularized by Hollywood which often portrays some very unrealistic events.

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The sniper employs a combination of skills which include camouflage, concealment, radio communications, and an in depth knowledge of exterior ballistics and fieldcraft, among other things. A sniper may engage targets from any range within his rifle's maximum effective range, sometimes pushing that envelope even farther. Typically targets will be beyond 4-5 hundred meters, which is beyond the range the average soldier is trained with the typical service rifle. Typically, a sniper carries out specific missions and has little to no support. Some examples of rifles used by the Sniper are the SR-25, M24, Mk13, M14, Remington MSR and many others. The Designated Marksman (DM), sometimes called Squad Designated Marksman (SDM) are terms that are often mistakenly used interchangeably with the term Sniper. The role is entirely different. Their role is to provide rapid accurate fire for their fireteam out to about 500 meters. They usually use more accurized versions of the weapons used on the fireteam, though not always the case. Some examples would be the 5.56mm SPR Mk 12, the M110 SASS or other semi-automatic rifles. Now that we have those two definitions out of the way, its up to you to decide if you have a need for either of those two skill sets. I have found that the sniper concept has been romanticized to the point that folks want the skill more than need it. Just be honest with yourself and say you are enamored by the concept and just want to shoot at those ranges for fun. That's perfectly acceptable. Now for the real meat and potatoes, what it takes to lay down precision fire at long distances. I don't care if you have more money than sense and spent all your preparedness money on an $8000 suppressed Surgeon rifle chambered in .338 Lapua, topped with a Knightforce scope, if you don't have the knowledge and skill to employ it, you have a heavy telescope at best. Don't get me wrong, equipment choice and quality are VERY important but skills are equally important. You have to be able to shoot tight groups consistently. There are a lot of factors involved it hitting a 10” target at 1000 meters, which seems to be everyone's dream. Let me explain:
  • A Minute of Angle is a measurement of about 1/60th of a degree. At 100m it is 1 inch, at 200 it's 2 inches, 1000m it's 10 inches and so on. That means if you remove all human factors and environmental factors from shooting a gun that can shoot all it's shots within an inch (a 1 MOA gun), the best it could do at 1000m is a 10 inch group. If you don't do your part, the most accurate gun in the world cannot compensate for you. If the target is a 10 inch vital area and you are shooting at 1000 meters with a 1 MOA capable gun, you have no room for shooter error. A gun capable of 1/4 MOA will cost you SUBSTANTIALLY more than 1 MOA gun.
  • Environmental factors play a HUGE role in what the bullet does once it leaves the barrel. Winds blow lightweight bullets around like feathers. Temperature affects the trajectory of the bullet, the temperature of the barrel, the ammo and, your performance. Some argue that high humidity effects how “thick” the air is and changes the trajectory. Elevation and barometric pressure also play a significant role in external ballistics.
  • Shooter skill is just as important. If you can't shoot a 1 inch group at 100 yards with the most accurate rifle in the world, how do you expect it to hit a 10 inch vital area at 1000 meters? Shoot 10K rounds of 22LR if you must to perfect your fundamentals.
  • Optics matter. If your scope has poor quality glass you won't be able to see your target clearly at distance. The scope must have high quality mechanisms that move the reticle around within the scope. They must be reliable and repeatable. If you add 25 clicks of elevation and then return to zero, it should return to zero every time and should not track diagonally. Ideally, your scope should have a modern reticle that allows for range estimation with markings to “hold” for different distances or wind. This negates the need to turn knobs and wear out the innards of the scope, and makes adjusting for targets at varying distances and winds extremely fast. Additionally, the scope should have a parallax adjustment if it has adjustable magnification. I could write an entire article just on scopes, first focal plane, fixed power, second focal plane, variable power, lighted and unlighted reticles, mildot and tactical milling reticles.....it can get overwhelming. [gallery ids="1991,1990,1988"]
  • Range estimation is paramount to shooting at virtually any distance. Contrary to what a lot of people think, bullets don't exit the barrel and go like a laser beam straight to the target. Gravity immediately affects them as soon as they exit. As a matter of fact, if two projectiles, one fired from a gun, the other dropped at the exact same time, both will hit the ground the exact same time if the run is fired dead level. To compensate for gravity, we aim higher, that means the bullet goes up to it's “max ordinance” then comes back down to meet the point of aim. The scope is zeroed for a specific distance. This actually corresponds with another point along the flight path. For example, the Army zeros the M4 at 25 meters which results in a 300m zero. This allows you to use ranges with much shorter distances to zero for longer distance. Range estimation becomes very important because, if you don't know the range to the target, you can't compensate for the bullet's trajectory. For example, if you have a 600m zero on a 308 rifle, depending on bullet type and environmental factors, it could drop 250 inches at 1000m. Imagine the drop with a 100m zero! Again, regardless of how expensive and tacticool your rifle is, if you do not understand this you will miss a 10” steel plate at 1000 yards, not to mention a 19.5” x 39” torso taget. You MUST know the distance to compensate for gravity...unless you are shooting a laser beam.
Now that we have discussed some of the factors that affect where your bullets impact, lets talk gear selection. Semi-automatic or bolt action? Bolt guns are simple, reliable and inherently more accurate than gas operated rifles. The major disadvantage is that for the average person, they are slower. Most beginners also tend to remove their face (break the cheekweld) from the stock each time the cycle the bolt. One can overcome this with practice and training.

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The semi-automatic rifle has more moving parts, thus is more susceptible to malfunctions and people have a tendency to just keep pulling the trigger because, well, they can. This also heats up the barrel. They also tend to cost a little more (for a good one). On the up side, you can have a larger capacity magazine, because it self loads you don't tend to remove your face from the stock (so you are still looking through the scope for a follow up shot), and you can shoot faster. In my opinion, I bipod is almost a necessity for a long range precision rifle, as well as a good sling and a shooting sock. Always cheat when you can. All 3 of these can take a lot of human error out of the equation and that's a good thing. A bipod can be extended and put against a wall to provide a good supported position for shooting from the standing position (just be cognizant of your muzzle). A sling can be wrapped around your wrist to provide stability. A shooting sock can be placed under the buttstock to provide a nice, squeeze adjustable rest which acts similarly to the bipod. There are many uses and variations but I won't go into them all. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="1987,1989"] I have omitted scope selection here because I think it was covered enough for this article above. However, this is a good segue into range finders. If your scope doesn't have a reticle that allows you to accurately calculate range (or you don't know how to use it) you need a rangefinder. They aren't exactly cheap either if you get one that can accurately read out to 1000m. One does not simply buy a Mosin-Nagant at the surplus store and go to the nearest 1000 meter soybean field and slay targets. While that gun could, with the right modifications and shooter, do that, why not get something from the modern era? There are people that shoot 1000 yard (learn to use the metric system if you want to shoot long range) matches with old 45-70 Sharps rifles from the 1870s with iron sights but does that pass the smell test for the prepper? If it was so awesome, why aren't we (Special Forces) using it? I can tell you it isn't because of budget cuts. To put this into perspective, I'll give you the setup of one of my frugal long range precision systems (pictured above), and it works. Remington 700 PSS in 300 Winchester Magnum-$700 (I recommend a 308 due to short barrel life of the 300WM), Larue 20 MOA base-$75, Les Baer 30mm scope rings-$100, 20 year old Leupold M1 Ultra fixed 20x scope-$1000, Harris adjustable short bipod with swivel lock-$90, adjustable cheekpiece on a modified factory HS Precision stock-$120, tactical bolt knob, trigger job and threaded barrel with a muzzle brake-3 organic chickens and a bunch of free range eggs or about $200, a Leupold rangefinder-$500 and Ballistic AE ballistic app for Iphone-$20. That's a grand total of about $2800 but keep in mind, this is a system, not just a rifle. I have a bunch of other accessories like a drag bag and other things that I did not count. Most of the accessories on this gun were much cheaper and I got them in trades but those are realistic numbers if you are paying cash. You can do it cheaper by getting different brand names of items but do not skimp on the scope. The barrel and the scope are the two most important items of the rifle in terms of accuracy and long range shooting.log book One scope I recommend is the Bushnell HDMR with a Tremor 2 or Horus 59 reticle. Those reticles seem complicated but once you know how to use them they are deadly and worth their weight in gold. The Bushnell offers all the same features of the infinitely more expensive tactical scopes with near the same quality for 1/3rd the price. If you look you can find someone trying to sell a used one cheaper than the average $1500 price tag. I know that sounds like a lot but you can't put a cheap Chinese scope on a gun and expect to consistently do what the big boys do. What does this all mean? Shooting precisely out to 1000m (which appears to be most peoples goal) is not really that easy, it requires a lot of training and cannot be consistently achieved with crappy gear. Is it worth your money to have this capability? Is the capability even a realistic goal in your preparedness scenario? If this is still something you would like to pursue, let us know. We have Special Forces Sniper qualified instructors to teach you. You don't need an $8000 setup, we can teach you within the limitations of your current equipment and you can grow from there. However you must know those limitations and have realistic goals. There is a tremendous amount of information to be covered on long range precision shooting and this article barely scratches the surface. De Oppresso Liber. [caption id="attachment_981" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Firearms, Tactical & Defense Training Firearms, Tactical & Defense Training[/caption]

Inside A Beehive

Since I posted on Facebook about the 33lbs of honey we recently harvested from one of our hives a few weeks ago, I have had a lot of inquiries about beekeeping. This will be a familiarization of all the parts, cost and assembly of a basic Langstroth style hive.[caption id="attachment_1925" align="aligncenter" width="660"]The basic setup with a medium super. The basic setup with a medium super.[/caption] Since I posted on Facebook about the 33lbs of honey we recently harvested from one of our hives a few weeks ago, I have had a lot of inquiries about beekeeping. This will be a familiarization of all the parts, cost and assembly of a basic Langstroth style hive. I chose Langstroth type hives for a couple of reasons. It's a proven design (patented in 1852) that allows me to remove frames of honey, extract it without destroying the honeycomb and replace it for the bees to refill. This saves them precious time and energy because they don't have to make more wax and rebuild the comb. The moveable frames also allow me to steal a frame of brood with freshly laid eggs, a few shakes of bees and start a new hive. I can also move a frame of brood to a small hive to help beef it up. Another advantage is that the bees don't tend to build comb just willy nilly, the frames keep everything fairly neat and organized. Bees make a substance called propolis which is like their version of mortar. The use it to fill cracks. They also make what is known as "burr comb" which is comb in between frame and anywhere they feel has enough space to build. The frame system in the Langstroth hive has the perfect spacing to aid in preventing propolis and burr comb from being built everywhere. Typical "bee space" is about 3/8ths of an inch. Any more and they try to build comb, any less and they try to cement it shut with propolis. Lastly, it is the most popular type of hive and parts are reasonable and plentiful. I get all my parts from the local Co-Op a little at a time and then put them all together when I have all the parts. There are other types of hives, Warre, Top Bar, Long Box and many others but for simplicity, I wont discuss those in this article. To help confuse the beginner beekeeper, there are different sizes of Langstroth hives. There are deep hive bodies that are 9 9/16ths inches tall. These are typically used as a brood chamber. This is where the queen will lay all her eggs and the bees will rear them. If it were filled with honey it would be too heavy to lift for harvesting. This is why there are different "depths" of supers. The super is the box that sits on top of the hive body. I use medium supers because I can easily lift them off when they are full of honey. The last one I harvested yielded 33lbs of honey, that does not include the weight of the super, frames or wax. If you are older or have a disability, it may make more sense to use a shallow or comb super. They will weigh much less when full. To add even more to the confusion, there are 8 and 10 frame hives. Ten frame hives are standard but, by making the box narrower by 2 frames it weighs less. I prefer 10 frame hives and I always leave one out so I have room to pry the frames apart (remember propolis is like gooey cement) and shift them over one space when doing an inspection.

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Within the hive are the frames. There are also several designs. I prefer Walter T. Kelly's "N" frame style. They are slotted on the top, sides and bottom. This allows me to simply drop foundation into the frame. Foundation is a thin layer of wax that has been ran through a device that imprints a honeycomb pattern into it. It may or may not contain vertical wires imbedded into the foundation for added strength. The bees simply follow the pattern and draw out the comb. Other designs are more complicated and require more effort, so I stick to the N type frames. [caption id="attachment_1922" align="alignright" width="300"]Components of an Components of an "N Type" frame for a deep hive body. Top, left and right end bars, bottom bar and wired foundation.[/caption] The base of the hive is called the bottom board. I have one that I made but I prefer the screened bottom boards from Kelly's Bees. It has a slot for the screen which prevents critters from getting inside and a slot for a debris board so I can look for varroa mites and small hive beetles. On a new hive, I recommend an entrance reducer. It is a small piece of wood with a 3 inch cutout that reduces the entrance to the hive so the guard bees can effectively fight off robbers (thieving bees from another hive) and other threats. I also recommend feeding them sugar syrup and pollen patties to get them off to a good start. Now, to assembly of the hive. You will need some wood glue, a hammer, a knife and all the parts. All my parts come from Kelly Beekeeping in Clarkson, Ky and they do a fine job predrilling the holes and cutting the box joints for the hive bodies and supers. The N type frames all fit snugly together as well. 1. Pre-assemble everything to ensure all parts fit together properly and nothing is missing. If needed, trim up any pieces that are slightly oversized with the knife. You should have the following items. From the bottom up.
  • Screened bottom board (with screen, debris board, entrance reducer $28)
  • Deep hive body with nails and frame rests-$19
  • Ten "N" type frames with foundation-$35
  • Inner cover-$10
  • Outer (top) cover with metal covering-$22

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This is the minimum required to get started for $114 or you can order a kit and foundation for $102. You will eventually need a super with frames and foundation. A Medium super with frames and foundation will run you about $55. The total for everything in the photo, including the smoker, hive tool and bee feeder is about $185. My first package of bees were $140. At current honey prices ($6.50 per lb) the 33 pounds I have harvested from one hive was worth $214. I harvested 35 lbs last year. They have paid for themselves and I was able to split a hive and catch a swarm to create 2 additional hives. With 4 hives, I should harvest about 120 lbs or nearly $800 worth of honey next year. What's better is knowing I have a sustainable source of sweetness.  Now, back to hive assembly. 2. Once you are happy all the pieces are there and fit together, put a thin layer of wood glue on the hive body joints and put them together with the 2 1/8th inch 14 gauge nails through the pre drilled holes. 3. Install the L-shaped frame rests along the rabbeted edge of the hive body with 11/16ths brads. These are optional but over time scraping propolis from the wood will wear out the hive body. 4. Put a thin layer of wood glue on all mating surfaces of the N type frame and fit the together. There are four parts, the slotted top bar,  2 grooved end bars and the grooved bottom bar. Place a 1 inch nail through the thick part of the bottom bar into the grooved end bars. Next place a 1 1/8 inch nail through the grooved end bars and into the top bar. Insert the foundation and secure through the predrilled holes with a support pin. (bobby pins will also work) 5. Place all the frames inside the hive body. 6. Follow the same procedure to assemble the supers and place the frames inside. 7. Place the screened bottom board on a sturdy base about a foot off the ground. I use small pallets with bricks underneath them. 8. Place the hive body on top of the bottom board and align the edges. Place the super on top of the hive body. 9. Place the inner cover on top of the super and the top (outer) cover on top of that. 10. Order 3lbs of bees and a mated queen and install into the hive or catch a swarm and install it. [gallery size="medium" ids="1924,1926,1923"] Now that you have a better understanding of the basic parts of a beehive, it should take some of the anxiety out of getting your first beehive. I don't have a fancy bee suit. When I go to raid the bees, I wear an old Army flight suit (that I also wore on raids overseas), latex exam gloves and a mosquito headnet. The only specialty item I have is the smoker. Half the time I don't use any of it, it just depends on how moody the girls are. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="1928,1927"]

 

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Apartment Meat!

I'm a practical guy and I like practical solutions. I was thinking about my often neglected apartment dweller readers recently. I was trying to figure out a way for them to produce their own meat when I recalled a conversation that I had with a retired Green Beret and Delta Force operator that was an instructor with me in the 18 Delta course. We had many conversations about farming, survival and austerity. He had mentioned to me that he was going to raise guinea pigs (aka cavi or cuya) on his quarter acre property in downtown Fayetteville North Carolina. Initially I laughed and thought the idea was crazy. At the time I was raising pot belly pigs, chickens and goats in a subdivision on 2 acres, what could be crazier than that?Pet's Fer dinner!?!
I'm a practical guy and I like practical solutions. I was thinking about my often neglected apartment dweller readers recently. I was trying to figure out a way for them to produce their own meat when I recalled a conversation that I had with a retired Green Beret and Delta Force operator that was an instructor with me in the 18 Delta course. We had many conversations about farming, survival and austerity. He had mentioned to me that he was going to raise guinea pigs (aka cavi or cuya) on his quarter acre property in downtown Fayetteville North Carolina. Initially I laughed and thought the idea was crazy. At the time I was raising pot belly pigs, chickens and goats in a subdivision on 2 acres, what could be crazier than that? He explained the process to me and how they were common food in South America.

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As I pondered this article, I considered that many folks already have guinea pigs in their apartments. Once you get over the social bias that we have in America towards eating what we consider pets, it seems like a logical idea. In a small amount of apartment space you can grow wheat grass like many folks do for their backyard chickens. This and scrap vegetables can provide you a sustainable food source for your guinea pigs. Some things they cannot eat like mustard, parsley, and potato peels. You can raise them and harvest them with no one knowing. You could use their droppings and litter to provide much-needed nutrients for your apartment vegetable garden. You could use the skins to produce clothing.

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The cavi could provide someone looking to grow their own food in a confined space, or to have a survival food source, an excellent renewable source of protein. Not to mention a nice break from canned spam in a SHTF scenario. At 21% protein and 8% fat, the cavi has less cholesterol and more protein than beef pork and chicken.There are many restaurants on both the east and west coast that are catering to an Andean expat crowd. This is opening the door to make "cuyas" not so taboo.

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Amazingly they can out breed rabbits. With just two males and 20 females, a family of 4 can provide all of their protein requirements for a year. That is about 200 guinea pigs per year. Check your local laws if you happen to live in one of those ever controlling places like New York City or California, as it is illegal to eat guinea pig. However, if you do decide to give it a try, like rabbits, a blow to the back of the head will render them unconscious then quickly cut the jugular and hang them up to drain. Afterwards, drop them in boiling water for a few seconds and the hair will easily pull away from the skin. Cut the carcass from anus to nose without cutting the intestines and remove the contents as you would any other animal. Now it can be roasted or deep fried or cooked however you see fit. I hear there are always free guinea pigs on Craigslist. Try one for free!

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