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Ben's blog

  • Fall is around the corner

    And it seems like we barely started harvesting. Growing season sure is short in New England. Cold frames & greenhouses definitely need to be part of any serious growing effort around here.

  • Dragon #4 – First Premium at the Tunbridge World’s Fair!

    Among other things, I entered a dragon at the craft section of the Tunbridge World’s Fair. Here it is in all its glory.

  • FreeBSD 9.0: higher MTU & NIC bonding

    Here’s is some information that took me a good while to gather.

    With the igb driver in FreeBSD, the mbuf cluster size needed is a mathematical formula involving the number of CPUs & the desired MTU. Unfortunately, it is currently hard set. On enterprise machines with many cores and higher MTUs, it is quite easy to reach this set limit. It will express itself with the following error message after an ifconfig:

    igb0: Could not setup receive structures

    This limit can be overridden with the following in /etc/sysctl.conf


    These are the value that worked for 16 cores & an MTU of 9000.

    While we’re at it, it took me a while to nail the exact syntax require for NIC bonding so here it is:


    ifconfig_igb0="mtu 9000 UP"
    ifconfig_igb1="mtu 9000 UP"
    ifconfig_lagg0="laggproto failover laggport igb0 laggport igb1 netmask"

    As far as I can tell, capitalization matters…

  • Chicken Coop!

    It’s been over a year since our move away from the city and we’re finally getting back into chickens. Things take time, starting fresh at the other end of the country doesn’t happen overnight. We only got 5 layers  as we’re pretty late in the season, we’ll start meat birds next spring.

    The coop still needs some polish and a window but here it is in all its current glory:

    With a bunch of Rhode-Island Reds

    Works for toddlers as well

    As with the beehive, I drafted everything on Google Sketchup and it made building it completely devoid of surprises. The plan can be downloaded here.

  • Harvest!

    We’re finally getting some decent harvests! Everyday brings new vegetables & canning season is ramping up with tomatoes just around the corner…

  • Evil

    There is a new evil in the land, and its name is Manduca Sexta, or horn worm for us mortals. These fat slimy caterpillars have started pillaging our tomato plants.

    One of them bastards getting fat at our expense, what a cool pattern though, especially the eye.

    All they leave behind are the skeletons of what were once beautiful tomato plants

    We’ve been squashing them left and right but they keep coming and their camouflage is extremely effective. It looks as though spraying with an organic compound referred to as “BT” is the solution to our problem.

  • More top bar bullshit

    After the bee holocaust that was my first harvest, it became evident that I needed to monitor the hive more often for misaligned comb. They didn’t take long to fuck things up again by building shit all over the place.

    Well that’s just great

    As you can see on the above picture, they’re building from the walls, the ground and the comb on the bar to the right is slightly misaligned. What you are not seeing is that the layout of brood, honey & nectar throughout the hive is completely inconsistent. Where before brood was towards the front, honey the middle and nectar the back; everything is now all over the place most likely as a result of my adding empty bars and moving things around to encourage straight comb drawing.

    They started working on this mess a week ago and as soon as I saw it I ordered a bunch of these guys. Let’s ponder on the absurdity of the situation: the main argument for Top Bar Beekeeping is that it’s more natural, you let the bees do their things and yoink some honey every once in a while. Well guess what, you need the bees to build their shit exactly right or you’ll be decimating them every harvest for not much at all. I’m reduced to adding plastic foundation to my “natural” hive to enforce rather than encourage straight comb. And I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to fuck this up as well.

    This is my last attempt at fixing this, if they don’t get it right we’ll ditch Top Bar in favor of Langstroth next season.

    Cutting the plastic frames to specs

    A bunch of top bars with a slit a little wider to accommodate the plastic foundation

    Plastic top bar

    Good luck mis-aligning that

    I did every other bar in the area of the hive that was a mess

    As is becoming routine with top bar beekeeping: waste left for the bees to rob clean

  • Wasted harvest, or is it?

    Here is all the comb that was too bad to harvest after the “clean up”. I put it in front of the hive for the bees that were on it to make their way back and hoping the bees would clean it and get the honey back inside. They didn’t take long, it’s almost empty already.

  • Bee Bridges

    Separating bars always yields these awesome bee bridges