Friday, April 14, 2006

Bees and my Bonnet

In Which She Reveals Her Incapacity for Brevity

One part of my quotidian life that I enjoy very much is the occasional moment of "ordinary grace," or "backyard magic." The times when the regular ol' day is unrolling, and somehow, a window opens into the numinous. It can occur at any time, around any activity. Sheer grace.

So, the other day, the older children and I were in the back yard (in a rare moment of sunshine), gardening and puttering, respectively. A sound finally registered in my addled brain -- a deep humming. At the same time, Thing 3 said, "Mama! a bee that can't fly!" We picked it up on a stick, and it was fine, just walking around. What it also was was much larger than most bees. A drone. A thought began forming in my brain. When I looked up, I saw something I've never seen before -- a cloud, an absolute cloud, of bees pouring out of the hive in the neighbor's walnut tree.

I had been very excited when we had noticed that first hive, as we've put in a number of fruit trees and as everyone learns when they're children, bees help pollinate fruits and vegetables. Good insects!

So I looked up and saw something like this:

We were in a mass of bees. They flew in the air, they flew in circles around our yard, they landed on us, got caught in our hair, and no one got stung. We just brushed them off and they went about their very important business. Swarming, on the first bright day in weeks.

In about ten minutes, the hum changed as their flight pattern began to alter -- from a cloud to a vortex. A vortex centered on a different tree. Just look at this golden beauty in front of the group:

We were entranced, and spent a lot of time looking at them through "finoculars" and saying wise things like, "Ooooooooh," and "Wow." After some time, they assumed their final configuration:

Although the apiarist I spoke with said that the new queen would move the hive in a couple of days, I sort of hope they work it out to stay there. As I said, I like the bees. And besides, they're magical. Maybe I'm going to have to furnish some sort of hive box, up high on a pole. I don't want to keep bees, I just want to have bees, for themselves. I also don't know if the old hive is stll viable, and they just swarmed because it was getting crowded, or if the original queen died.

I tend to go on and on, don't I? Meanwhile, I finished this:

It's the second iteration, as I messed up the decreases on the first one. Here's the "free pattern," although I bet anyone could work it out by looking at it:

Easter "Bonnet" Pattern for a Chilly Baby

Yarn: Knitpicks Merino Style -- It uses less than a single 50gm skein

Gauge: 5 sts/in, 1.75/cm in seed stitch

Needles: Circular or double-pointed in whatever size you need for gauge (I used a US 6)

Cast on 81 stitches.

Place marker at beginning of round. Knit in seed stitch (k1, p1 to end of round, ending with a k1, begin next round p1, k1, continue.

When brim is as tall as you want, k1, kf&b around entire round. I wanted a tall look, so mine's about 3"/7 3/4 cm.

With second needle, I went up a size, cast on 5 stitches, toward the "inside" of the hat. Using another needle, make i-cord and pick up a stitch from the original needle and knit it together with the 5th stitch each time -k4, K2tog, slide to the other end of the needle, pull yarn around and repeat. This attaches the i-cord to the top edge of the hat. At the end of the i-cord round, break yarn and sew the live stitches from the last needle to the cast-on part of the i-cord.
Using whatever size needle makes you happy -- I stayed with the larger one -- pick up stitches on the inside of the i-cord or the top of the brim all around. Make it a multiple of however many decreases you want. I wanted three, so I ended up picking up 120.

Place markers evenly around the picked-up stitches, and k every round, k2tog before each marker and ssk after each. Decrease on every round. Fewer stitches would have made a flatter brim, and that's a look I wanted, but I'm not going to redo it this time.

At the end of your decrease rounds, when there are between 6-4 stitches left, switch to making i-cord again, for just a few rounds. Break yarn, draw end of yarn through the remaining stitches on the needle, pull it through the hat, and secure, tightening up any little holes.

That's it! Here is is on the intended wearer:

Now I'm going to see if I can pull a Rain and knit a matching top-down, swingy, seed-stitch bordered raglan sweater to match. By Sunday. Thing 4's Easter dress is really thin. Wish me luck!


sewingsuzee said...

WOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW. That is so incredibly awesome. One of those moments that just makes being human (with the ability to appreciate these things) worth all the other crap.

Thanks for photographing and sharing!

And the hat is way cool, too. But it was a tough act to follow, that swarm.

Rain said...

The hat is very cute. Of course you can knit a sweater to match in time, anything is possible! Knit Forest, Knit!

You are brave with the bees, I'd have run a mile. When you have bees in your garden (intentional or not!) you should tell them all you news. Keep them informed of what's going on. It's lucky

amy said...

"That sound means something. It means you're a bee. And the only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey, is so I can eat it! Hhhhhunny. "
- our tied-for-favorite bear, Pooh

I'm really glad you're not brief, S. The baby's hat is lovely, and your by-Sunday sweater goal is impressive. I'm waiting to see.

Now, so this comment is at least half about me, R has been saying Hhhhhunny a lot lately, and we thought, of course, too much Pooh Bear video. But no, turns out he's been saying HEINIE. As in, diaper's off, finger pointing to crotch: "menace, and hhhhunny"

jen said...

What an amazing thing to see! I love the photographs, and am saving your post on the computer to show the resident male when he gets in. Aren't bees just surreal?

It's so refreshing to live vicariously through someone with access to bees and a garden while I'm spending spring in a hotel room of a litter-infested city. Oh, to be stuck in a storm of bees! Good on you for having your camera!

bfmomma said...

wow! the story is so cool and the pictures are FANTASTIC! wow...

and I can't wait to hear about the sweater... And here I am, unable to finish a pair of socks before leaving on spring break...

Anonymous said...

wow, good for the bees for not stining you!

aurora said...

Wow. That's really, really cool! Have they told you any secrets?

Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend :-)

String Bean said...

Bees are magical, aren't they? I love watching drones ..well, drone. Maybe the bee you found was the Queen, hence the moving? The Queens are very large.

When we lived in NY we used to call my mom the Bee Whisperer. She would sit outside and bees would just fly to her and land on her, not stinging. They would sit on her arm or hand while she petted their backs. When they had enough, they would fly away.
My family took to calling me the Dragonfly Whisperer a few summers ago when two dragonflies began following me around and landing on my clothes for long periods of time. They even stayed on my clothes when I went inside to get a drink. Everytime I went outside they would ride on my back or shoulders.
We still can't explain the bees or the dragonflies.