The hive has a hat

When we set up the Haengekorb, I didn’t realize it needed to be protected from rain. We hung it in a tree in the back of the yard, and it really wasn’t practical to take it down to put on a roof once the bees were in. The unseasonal rain we had prompted me to put up a very makeshift roof; but clearly, I needed to solve this problem in a more permanent way. I originally thought of 1/4″ plywood and 2×2’s, but I didn’t see how I could cobble this together around the ropes. Also, there was the problem of weight.

Then I thought of clear plastic corrugated roofing. I got an 8′ piece, some v-shaped metal flashing, a couple of pieces of lath, some marine glue, some foam pipe insulation and hose clamps, and metal duct tape (the kind they use for heat ducts).  I had the lumber yard cut the roof panel in half, and cut a 4′ piece of the flashing for me. Then over several days I glued the lath to the short sides of the roofing, glued the flashing across the top, and taped everything up. I drilled holes for the ropes and made saw cuts from the edge up to the rope holes. I covered the holes with tape so they wouldn’t fray the ropes.

The installation had to be at dusk, when the bees were all quiet and in the hive. The first evening, I waited put up two ladders. I climbed up on either side of the hive, and set 18″ pieces of the  foam pipe insulation around each rope, with a clamp at the top for the roof to rest on. I taped around each piece of foam for reinforcement. The next evening, I set the finished roof on the foam and taped up the saw cuts with duct tape and metal tape. Then I covered all the metal tape with blue painters’ tape to deflect the heat and please the bees, who allegedly like blue.

Now we’ll have to see if it holds up and keeps the bees dry when the rain comes. But in any case, this is certainly the most advanced engineering project I have ever tried. I am amazed that my measurements were right, the saw cuts were relatively straight, and the whole thing worked as I envisioned it.

For the full story of the arrival of the bees, and setting up the hive, click here. Or click to see the makeshift roof.

The Amazing Original Homemade Compost Buster

Okay, I have promised MacGyver-type solutions on this site, and here is the first one (if you don’t count the bee egg, which I didn’t invent): the amazing, fabulous, original compost and chicken food grinder, made for a total of under $100 out of a used stainless sink, a used heavy duty garbage disposal, and a new faucet and water line from the hose. You can read this or  see it live, captured by my amazing friend and documentarian extraordinaire, Yeh Tung.

Compost is pretty simple: kitchen scraps, garden waste, straw or leaves and if you have some animal manure, great! Layer it, water and turn it from time to time, and wait. This is fine if you have unlimited space and time.

The problem is, if you have a small area, there is always too much compost and it takes too long to break down, so there are always more kitchen scraps and garden waste than there is space. Even if you import extra worms, as I did.

Over the years I’ve tried plain, unprotected heaps (attracts rats, raccoons, possums and skunks), drums and plastic compost houses (fill up too fast), and even an expensive machine from Nature Mills that turned kitchen scraps in to a wet smelly mess that was too stinky for inside and attracted flies and bred maggots outside.

My solution is the amazing, easily home built compost buster, made from a garbage disposal.  For my prototype, I simply cut a hole in a piece of plywood, set it on a 2×4 stand, screwed the disposal onto it and put a bucket underneath. I used an extension cord and plugged the disposal in to turn it on. I put a strainer on top of the bucket, and used a hose to provide water.

Once I proved to myself that the concept worked (despite all advice to the contrary!), I added a length of old bicycle tire inner tube to the exit of the disposal, and put a cork in the intake valve. I added a sink, a faucet, and a big used Igloo container with a hose bib in place of the drink-dispensing valve.














The raw material goes into the sink, gets ground up in the disposal and drains into the strainer. The water goes into the cooler. I added a switch to turn the disposal on and off.

If it’s stuff the chickens will eat, I give the mash to them. This eliminates the litter of rinds and cobbs they usually leave. I make a mash of kitchen scraps.  I also let them eat corn cobs and rinds down to the nubs and then take the rinds and cobs out to mash up for the compost along with garden waste, citrus, and onions, where the worms make it into compost practically overnight. The nutrient-rich water goes onto the vegetable garden.

Effective, efficient, and as noted, has a certain (at least to me) poetic elegance of design.