Yep, it was my own fault. I did not get around to winterizing in time and my nifty rain gauge shattered when the liquid in it froze. The sun shone this afternoon so we made up for lost time and got ahead of the next stupid mistakes.
First, we went out to the apiary and checked each hive for mice. The first box we opened, two confused mice blinked up into the sunshine and crawled drunkenly away. This box had no bees in it, so we dumped out the mouse nest and set it aside to bring back to the barn.
We methodically went through the other five hives and discovered we had three thriving colonies left, and one in which all the bees had died in the cold, with the telltale butts in the air and noses buried at the bottom of the the cells. This indicates that they starved to death, licking up any honey they could still find. This was the swarm we’d been so proud to capture this summer. They started out with a nice queen, but maybe she died, leaving them alone and cold. How sad.
We retrieved all the bee-less equipment and spent a couple hours cleaning it up and putting it away in the barn for next year. This led us to take a look at our sloppy storage of junk in the barn and we spent another hour rearranging, sweeping, and sorting things into garbage, give it away, and burn it piles. I even took a turn at bailing the liquid out of the toilet so we could dump in antifreeze for the winter. Little did I know that the water to the sink was already turned off so I couldn’t wash my hands when I was done. Ugh.
I hooked up a heat lamp with a timer for the chickens, we checked all the outdoor faucets, and I think we can now relax knowing that we have done all we can to brace the farm for the winter winds. Now, I just have to go out to the internet and search for a replacement for that rain gauge.