Welcome to the Delights Microfarm & Honey Blog

Supersedure Update, 2016/06/25

My original feral swarm colony (2013) decided to requeen itself this spring. The early signs were that its entrance activity was much less than the other colonies. Upon checking inside, I noted some new queen cells and decided to let them do their thing.

Apparently, one of the queens emerged, found some friendly drones, and returned to pick up where the old queen left off. A couple weeks ago, I observed young workers hanging out around the entrance, and activity is definitely picking up now.

Today, I tilted the hive to guestimate its weight, thinking it might need feeding. It was really heavy (2 deeps & a shallow), so instead of feeding them, I will give them another super tomorrow!

Both 2014 colonies are still working hard ... the honey flow continues!

Also, the 2016 swarm is working well into the 2nd deep super. I gave them one of the extracted supers to clean out, but I don't expect to harvest any surplus from them this year.

I "recycled" the other extracted supers back to the hives from whence they came, hoping they might be refilled for a 2nd harvest in August.


If you want some truly delicious, freshly extracted, spring honey, please look for me at the Pulaski Marketplace, Tuesdays, from 4 PM to 8 PM.

My beekeeping experience since the early 1970s, and "conventional wisdom" convinced me to expect 25% to 30% of my hives to perish over the winter, but I was not prepared for all 5 of my colonies to die during the winter of 2012-2013! They surely did not starve (there was plenty of honey in all 5 hives), and no evidence of disease or infestation, according to the lab in Beltsville, MD. Just as I had decided to sell all my bee equipment, a feral swarm moved into one of the failed hives. I thought that might be a "sign", though I'm sure it was pure coincidence.

Now, after the 3rd winter with NO hives lost, I am convinced that the best way to maintain a small beekeeping operation is to use "feral" swarms exclusively. It also seems to be the easiest and least expensive path, because the feral swarms seem to be more hardy and they are FREE.

Then there is the matter of honey production! I don't usually harvest any honey from a new colony the 1st year, but once established, they are extremely productive. For the past three seasons, the established colonies have filled two or threee shallow supers (i.e. 60 to 90 lbs) of surplus honey by the first week in June. In all my prior beekeeping experience, I do not recall ever getting that much honey from a single hive in a season, much less by the 1st week in June!

Swarm control used to be a high priority with purchased bees. Now, I don't even bother! I figure that if one of my hives swarms (honeybees' natural procreation mechanism) it's a plus for the environment or some other beekeeper collecting swarms. Either way, it may even become a source for future swarms that will wind up in my apiary. The one hive here that did swarm did so on April 15th 2015 and still produced 200 lbs of surplus honey for the season!


Summer honey- 2015

WOW, these "feral" bees are amazing! I just pulled three supers off the hives that the two swarms from last spring call home. All the frames were fully capped and extraction yielded 101 lbs of summer honey.

If you've been waiting for this darker summer honey, now's the time to call me, or visit me at the Pulaski Marketplace on Tuesday, 4-8PM.

QUICK UPDATE - 2015/06/16 - Garden & Bee Update

REALLY busy right now, but I want to show you the color of the "premium" spring honey I just extracted. Locust & apple blossom honey

This honey is even lighter than last year's spring honey, suggesting a higher percentage of black locust nectar. It is extremely sweet, flavorful and aromatic.

Pure locust honey is almost water-white. While this honey is about the color of home-made lemonade, i.e. almost water-white, I still call it "wildfower honey" because I cannot guarantee that no nectar from other sources was collected!

Yesterday, I extracted 100 lbs of this from three shallow supers from "the big hive", and there's more to harvest from the two swarms I caught last year.

I'd like to think that this outstanding production is a result of converting my apiary to "feral" bees (swarms lured into empty hives with a spritz of lemongrass oil), but today I helped a neighbor harvest 100 lbs of similar looking honey from three supers off their hive of purchased bees (albeit requeened last year with a locally bred queen).

The only logical conclusions I can draw are that: 1) this year's locust bloom is better than last year's, and 2) that our local bees are very happy!

FWIW, some of the outfits that had locust honey or locust & apple blossom honey for sale last year recently updated their websites lamenting that their 2015 locust honey harvest was "a bust". That certainly was NOT the case in Radford!

More later...

UPDATE - 2015/06/02 - Garden & Bee update

raised beds The garden is off to a great start, with tomatoes, cabbage & squash in the raised beds:

lower terrace

and potatoes, squash & bush beans in the lower terrace. The asparagus bed has been producing several pounds a week for a while, and I just planted 10 more crowns in the hope of increasing production enough to freeze a bunch in a few years.

Plum set

The fruit trees are coming along, and the prune plum has a good set on it for the first time.

front yard

Dianna has spent a lot of time and effort making the front yard landscaping look like a House & Garden showplace!


This year, we are experimenting with container gardening of tomatoes, carrots, beets, swiss chard, "bush" zucchini and pole beans:

Although no one has moved into the swarm traps yet, there's still time ('til the end of June). The three (feral) hives all survived the winter and have been working overtime since early March. beehives Despite having swarmed on April 15th, the "big hive" from last year has already put away a huge surplus, approaching the "dangerously tall" stage once again.

I plan to extract some spring honey in the next few days.

UPDATE - 2015/04/11 - VT's "Big Event" helpers, plus Feral Bee update

Today, four helpers from the VT "Big Event" (see: http://vtbigevent.org/) program came by to help with some garden chores. They arrived on time, worked hard, were very courteous, enthusiastic about the (vegetable) garden & chickens, and interested enough in my "feral" bee hives (which ALL survived the winter, BTW) to stand by fearlessly, without "protection"**, and even take some pictures as I reorganized the hive bodies a bit. No worries, these "feral" bees are really gentle and, as it was sunny, 70F, with an early honey flow just starting, I might not have even needed to smoke them.

While they were stuffing the raspberry & blackberry prunings into the burn-barrel, installing "weed cloth" on the upper garden's raised beds & it covering with a thick mulch of aged wood chips, I was cleaning up the lower garden (pulling up tomato stakes, cutting/removing plant debris, and harvesting a bunch of plump asparagus.

The VT "Big Event" seemed to be better organized this year, and the weather cooperated more than some years in the past. I was very happy to have their help, and impressed with the quality of their work. If you have not availed yourself of this great resource before, be sure to check it out for next spring!

** As a common-sense precaution, I had advised the "Big Event" organizers that I had some bee hives, and whoever was assigned to work here should NOT be allergic to bee stings!

UPDATE - 2015/03/09 = "Spring has sprung, da grass has riz, I wonda where da boidies is."

Seems like "daylight savings time" triggered an end to the series cold snaps. Right now it's 64 degrees, "da boidies" are all over the place, and the bees are out looking for nectar and pollen: Of course flowers are few and far between now, so I've given them some 1:1 sugar syrup and pollen patties to help stimulate an early build-up.

UPDATE - 2014/10/01

The Bakery part of Delights is closed, and the baker (me) has officially "retired" ... again. We still sell eggs and raw local honey, subject to availability, and encourage you give us a call (see the Contact Us page).

FWIW, I just extracted some more of the lemonade-color (locust & apple blossom) spring honey, and some medium color summer honey.

UPDATE - 2014/07/13 - Airtight Storage Containers

A few beekeeping supplies need to be stored in fireproof and critter-proof containers, lest they become dangerous or be destroyed. For a small-scale operation like mine, a few military surplus ammo cans (available online and at many gun shows) fill the bill.

airtight smoker box To prevent fire, and to conserve unburned smoker fuel, a lit smoker (std 4" x 7") can be stored safely in an airtight military surplus .50 Caliber ammo can (12" x 7" x 8.5", at left). The rolled up corrugated cardboard is my preferred smoker fuel. After closing the cover on a lit smoker, the combustion will consume the oxygen in the can, extinguishing the fire and creating a vacuum which will make the can hard to open, at least for a while.

30mm ammo box w/foundation Beeswax foundation and pollen patties are expensive, and easily destroyed by mice & insects, unless stored properly. Quite by coincidence, military surplus 30mm ammo cans are exactly the right size (17.5" x 9" x 14") to hold standard/Langstroth beeswax foundation! On the right I've stored 50 sheets of deep foundation and 100 sheets of shallow foundation. A small plastic bag of moth crystals (PDB/paradichlorobenzene) placed on top of the foundation before closing will protect against wax moths, etc. Beeswax does not absorb harmful amounts of PDB.

WARNING: DO NOT use the lit votive candle method (described below for pollen patties) to protect foundation from insects! Beeswax and the tissue paper between the sheets is very flammable! 30mm ammo box w/patties

On the left, about 20 lbs of pollen patties partially fill a 30mm ammo can, which would likely hold 100 lbs or more. Protect pollen patties (typically pollen mixed with honey) from insects by placing a jelly glass containing a lit votive candle on top of the patties just before sealing the can. As with the lit smoker, the flame will consume the oxygen and create a vacuum. The vacuum and lack of oxygen will kill any insects & larvae, and extinguish the flame. Insect larvae that emerge (from eggs in the patties?) after the can is sealed will perish due to the lack of oxygen and abundance of carbon dioxide, even if the vacuum doesn't hold forever.

WARNING: DO NOT USE moth crystals to protect pollen patties, as the absorbed PDB would be harmful to the bees.

UPDATE - 2014/07/05 - Is this starting to look like a "blog"?

third big swarm On July 3rd, when I checked on the swarm that moved in on June 29th, they covered the six frames and were hanging from the inner cover in the open space. third big swarm I filled the open space with three frames of new foundation to discourage them from building new comb down from the inner cover.

This morning, at 5 AM, I cut some tall grass, covered the entrance, stapled a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth to hold the grass in place and moved the box into the apiary. At the right, you can see the first few bees venturing out in the new location.

Berries - 2014 Our thornless blackberries are starting to ripen and I expect to have some to sell at the July 15th Pulaski Marketplace, along with some potted tip-roots & suckers for folks who'd like to grow their own.

UPDATE - 2014/07/01 - Summer Amusements

These spring chickens are a bit feistier than the last couple batches: A couple like to swing on the watering hose... most are laying pullet eggs, but a few have advanced to "large".

I may have a chance to test the old beekeepers' rhyme: "A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, and a swarm in July isn't worth a fly". On June 29th, my one remaining swarm trap attracted what looks like a pretty strong swarm. Now, there's a lot of two-way traffic, and, although it's hard to see in this video, there are several bees fanning at the entrance: Maybe this swarm will tell me whether SW VA bees consider June 28th to be a "silver spoon" date or a "not worth a fly" date ;-)

UPDATE - 2014/06/21 - Summer Solstice

Berries - 2014 Berries - 2014 Red raspberries are starting to ripen, and the thornless blackberries are just starting to get some color. Tomatoes and chard are coming along and a few zucchini are about ready to harvest.

The two new swarms have been really busy with the post-extraction supers I gave them to clean up. There was some capped brood in the center frames, so I gave them each a 2nd deep for them to build up for winter. Solstice Hives - 2014 Solstice Hives - 2014 The workers in "the tall hive" have started to refill the post-extraction super I gave them, so I added another super ... I wish I could clone those genetics!

UPDATE - 2014/06/08

The honey I extracted from Spring Honey - 2014 "the tall hive" on 06/01 is very sweet, fruity flavored, and "extra light amber" - about the color of frozen lemonade concentrate (see pix at right)! My research suggests that it is mostly from "honey locust" trees (aka acacia) and apple blossoms. Pure Locust honey sells for premium prices ($10-$20/lb), if you can find it - all the sites I visited were "sold out"!

Our 2014 Market Schedule

Market Update: We are now presenting our breads and other products at the Pulaski Marketplace , Tuesdays, from 4 PM to 8 PM, starting May 20th, 2014, thru September 16th.
Look for us at our new permanent location, near the entrance.

In addition to the Marketplace, we usually have farm-fresh cage-free eggs, raw local honey, some frozen breads and other goodies for sale, subject to availability, at our 7th Street Radford location.

Although we don't have "regular store hours", we are usually here, so just give us a call at 540-639-2361, if you want to place an order or check availability.

Delights Home Bakery in Radford, VA is our third state-licensed food preparation venture. The first was a home bakery and catering service we started in 1976 to help pay the mortgage on our Connecticut farm (see History). In that, it was quite successful, as we lived there for 20 years!

The Delights Home Bakery Micro-farm is about 1/3 acre of (non-certified) organic, terraced gardens, raised beds, mini-orchard, berry patches, chicken run & apiary, owned and operated by Dave & Denise Knight in Radford, Virginia, a university town located in the New River Valley, nestled between the Southern Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains.

San Francisco Sourdough Our bakery products feature real San Francisco Sourdough bread, "the standard by which all other sourdough breads are judged", made with only five ingredients: unbleached flour, water, raw honey (from our own bees), salt, and true San Francisco Sourdough culture (c. milleri and l. sanfrancisco) originally purchased from Sourdoughs International), and nurtured here since 2005. We make several kinds of SF Sourdough, including: Original (white), Honey Whole Wheat, Deli Rye, Pumpernickel-Raisin, and Cranberry Walnut.

For details about our San Francisco Sourdough, and how we developed our unique (in SW Virginia) process, check out the Sourdough Notes page

We also bake some favorite "artisan bread" recipes developed for our family and customers over the past 40 years, including: Greek Olive (my grandmother's maiden name was Catherine Achilles), Whole Grain Sprouted Wheat, Tomato Cheese, Savory Herb, and Roseanne's Bananadama, our unique version of traditional Anadama bread.

For the Pulaski Marketplace, we always bake our Original San Francisco Sourdough, and a limited selection of our other breads, either fresh or frozen.

Checking pH of a batch of jam Checking pH of a batch of jam To complement our home-made breads, we offer our small batch preserves, made just like (my) grandma used to make them ... well, almost: we have invested in some modern scientific equipment, like digital pH meters and a digital refractometer, to ensure the quality and safety of every batch.

In addition to some traditional family recipes like strawberry-rhubarb jam and tomato marmalade, we produce a number of original recipes like mango-peach marmalade, rhubarb chutney and mixed berry jams. For a special treat, try our slow-cooked fruit butters. They are lower in sugar than jams and bursting with flavors of fruit and spices. We call them Sun Butters because they are made using electricity from our solar electric system - so, even though they look brown, they are really "green" ;-)

A frame of mostly capped honey Some really fresh, cage-free brown eggs From our "micro-farm", we harvest farm-fresh cage-free brown eggs from our small flock of hens, raw honey from our modest apiary, and fresh-picked seasonal produce from our (non-certified) organic raised bed gardens, mini-orchard, and berry patches.

Fresh-baked breads and our other products are available at the Pulaski Marketplace on Tuesdays (4-8 PM) from mid-May thru mid-September After September 16, we will sell only eggs & honey from our VDACS-inspected kitchen in Radford. Cassolet Soup Baked Beans & Bacon

Special orders for baked goods, sides & entrees for Holidays, parties, or just to have home-made "comfort food" in your freezer, are welcome any time.

Although our main foci are: sustainable agriculture, natural food production, and energy efficiency, technical innovation has been key to our success. East & West banks of solar panels

Our 4.2 KW solar electric system, for example, provides all the energy to slow-cook our fruit butters (which we call "Sun Butters"), and to run most other circuits in our home "off-grid".

We use thermal switches and programmable timers extensively to control henhouse and greenhouse lighting & ventilation, and to automate garden irrigation.

Sunset at DHB
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